The hand is made up of 29 bones and 29 joints. Normally, a healthy joint contains cartilage that lines the end of the bones and a joint covering (synovium) that allows for smooth, unrestricted motion. Arthritis refers to a progressive disease that results in inflammation of at least one joint. There are three main types of arthritis that can affect the joints of the hand:
Osteoarthritis – Wear and type of arthritis that results from aging. Symptoms start gradually and progress as the joint cartilages wear.
Post-Traumatic Arthritis – Results from an injury to the joints of the hand.
Fractures and dislocations can lead to progressive development of pain, stiffness, and swelling months or years later.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – Inflammatory disease process in which the body attacks itself and results in destruction of joint cartilage. This is believed to be an inherited genetic process. This commonly affects both hands.
Similar inflammatory arthropathies such as lupus, psoriasis, and gout can be risk factors for the development of hand arthritis.
Symptoms of hand arthritis include pain, swelling, a clicking or grinding sensation, warmth to the touch, and eventual deformity.
Hand arthritis is diagnosed by an orthopaedic surgeon. X-rays of the affected hand are obtained along with a physical examination to make the diagnosis. Additional testing including an MRI, CT, or Bone scan may be ordered to provide further information and help guide treatment.
Treatments for ankle arthritis range from activity modification, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID), cortisone injection(s), hand therapies, and bracing. Surgery to replacement one or more joints in the hand or a fusion may be recommended for some.