Hand Arthritis

What is Hand Arthritis?

Arthritis of the hands, wrists and fingers is a common cause of pain in the hand. The condition is the inflammation of the joints, usually causing pain and swelling.

Arthritis tends to occur in older patients or those who have previous injuries on their hand. Some patients may have other forms of inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis or gouty arthritis.

The symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid (inflammatory) arthritis are similar, which include:

  • Grinding, clicking or cracking sensations in the affected joint with movement
  • Misshapen joints
  • Pain in the affected joint — this may worsen when the joint is in use (such as when gripping heavy objects), but would be relieved with rest
  • Development of more frequent pain over time — from a dull ache to a sharp pain, sometimes extends beyond the affected joint
  • Reduced movement in the affected joint
  • Swollen red joints that are tender to touch
  • Weak joints
  • People with rheumatoid (inflammatory) arthritis may have longer morning stiffness and more swelling and redness of the joints than those with osteoarthritis.

Treatments include:

  • Exercise to help stabilise joints by maintaining strength of muscles and ligaments
  • Drugs:
    • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs for rheumatoid arthritis
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) to reduce pain, swelling, and stiffness in osteoarthritis
    • Occasional injection of steroids  into a joint to relieve pain and swelling
  • Physiotherapy for exercises to stabilize the joint
  • Surgery to correct joint deformity or to replace a badly damaged joint

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