Twenty-eight bones, 29 joints and an intricate network of ligaments, tendons and nerves in your hands make it possible to button a shirt, braid hair, slice a steak or give a thumbs-up. But when arthritis or a related condition affects the hands, the simplest tasks can be painful. Dori Neill Cage, MD, an orthopedic hand surgeon in San Diego, lists some common arthritis-related problems that affect the hands.
Bone growths on the middle joint of the finger that can occur when osteoarthritis (OA)-related cartilage loss causes bone to rub together, stimulating abnormal bone formation; joint may be painful and stiff.
Treatment options: rest, splinting, over-the- counter (OTC) pain relievers
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Compression of the median nerve in the wrist, leading to tingling or numbness of the thumb, index, middle and part of the ring finger.
Treatment options: splinting, OTC pain relievers, corticosteroid injections, surgery
Dupuytren’s Contracture (Or Disease)
A condition in which the palm’s connective tissue thickens, causing fingers to bend or curl toward the palm.
Treatment options: corticosteroid injections, collagenase (enzyme) injection, needle aponeurotomy (“needling”), surgery
Bone growths associated with OA; like Bouchard’s nodes, except that they form on the joint closest to the fingernail; joint may be painful and stiff.
Treatment options: rest, splinting, OTC pain relievers
A condition that occurs when finger tendons thicken or become inflamed, causing joints to get “stuck;” affected fingers may be painful and pop or click when extended.
Treatment options: splinting, corticosteroid injections, surgery
Signs of the following conditions will require a proper diagnosis and a treatment plan in partnership with a dermatologist, rheumatologist or orthopaedist
Finger pain, inflammation and swelling so fingers look sausage-like; a symptom of psoriatic arthritis (PsA), a type of inflammatory arthritis associated with the skin condition psoriasis.
Pitting or crumbling nails or separation from the nail bed could be a sign of psoriatic arthritis, particularly if accompanied by joint pain.
A condition in which the small blood vessels in extremities constrict in response to stress or cold; fingers may change colors – from pale, to blue, to red – and be painful or tingle; may be associated with connective tissue diseases.
Rubbery or doughy bumps beneath the skin that form on forearms, elbows, fingers or thumbs, particularly at the knuckles; associated with aggressive rheumatoid arthritis; painful in some cases; may be movable or attached to underlying tissue.
Hardening of finger skin, which may appear tight and shiny; fingers may be difficult to move; a sign of scleroderma, a condition characterized by a buildup of collagen in the skin.
Ulnar Drift (Ulnar Deviation)
Gradual shift of wrists and fingers in the direction of the little finger; caused by chronic inflammation and damage from rheumatoid arthritis; can cause mild to severe pain and affect hand function.
Author: Mary Ann Dunkin
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