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When cartilage in joints wear out, pain begins. Learn about osteoarthritis of the hand.

Osteoarthritis of the Hand

What is Osteoarthritis of the Hand?

Osteoarthritis of the HandOsteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in a joint wears out, which can result in bone rubbing against bone. This condition can happen in almost any joint in the body, but it is most common in the hands, hip, knees, and feet. The most common form of osteoarthritis of the hand, called primary generalized osteoarthritis, affects the small joints near the finger and the base of the thumb. Erosive arthritis tends to affect only the joints in the middle of the finger.

What causes Osteoarthritis of the Hand?

As we age, the tissue in our body slowly begins to degenerate from wear-and-tear. This is a natural part of aging, but if the cartilage in joints wears down, it can cause a condition called osteoarthritis. This can cause bone to rub against bone, leading to inflammation and pain. While degeneration from aging can cause this condition, it can also be caused by repetitive stress on the joint and genetic predisposition.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of primary generalized osteoarthritis in the hand may include stiffness, swelling, and pain in the small joints near the fingernail and at the base of the thumb. Mucous cysts, a type of ganglion cyst, may develop at the joint closest to the fingernail. Erosive arthritis symptoms may include boney erosions, pain, and swelling of the joints in the middle of the finger. Other symptoms may include crepitus, or a crunching sound when the joint moves, and a reduced range on motion in the joint. Your doctor may diagnose this condition after a medical history, physical exam, and observation of the symptoms. X-rays or bone scan tests may also be used to help diagnose the condition by showing changes in the bones of your joint.

How is it treated?

Conservative treatments are used to treat this condition first. This may include anti-inflammatory medication, rest, physical therapy, injections, and immobilization of the area with devices like splints. If the condition does not respond to conservative treatment, a surgical procedure may help the condition. Joint fusion and joint reconstruction are two surgical procedures your doctor may recommend to treat osteoarthritis of the hand.