Arthritis in the hands and wrist can be a debilitating condition. It also gets worse over time, which is why early diagnosis is important. Awareness about signs and symptoms could lead to early diagnosis and treatment. This could lead to better pain management and ultimately prevent further tissue damage. Any disability as a result of the condition could also be minimized.
Symptoms Of Arthritis In The Hands And Wrist
Symptoms may vary depending on the type of arthritis. There are, however, some that are common to every type.
- Joint pain – This is the primary symptom. In the early stages, the pain will come and go, and only gets worse when the hands are in use. Pain is usually relieved with rest. As the disease progresses, the pain becomes constant and can be felt even at rest. It may also develop from dull ache to sharp pain which at times can extend beyond the hand and wrist area (i.e. into the forearms).
- Limited movement – Patients may experience stiffness or a reduced range of motion in the area as the condition progresses.
- Swelling – Joints would become swollen and sore to the touch.
- Weakness – A combination of joint pain, loss of motion, and deformity could lead to a weaker grip and pinch.
- Clicking, grinding or cracking – Continuous wear and tear of the cartilage would result to joint motion that is accompanied by clicking or grinding.
Osteoarthritis Of The Hand – Signs And Symptoms
This is a progressive condition that affects the articular cartilage at the ends of bones, which makes smooth joint movement possible. The wear and tear of the cartilage causes the bones to rub against each other, resulting in pain, stiffness, weakness and a host of other signs and symptoms:
- Bony nodules may appear at the joints of the fingers, particularly at the middle joint and the end joint.
- Deep aching pain may be experienced at the base of the thumb.
- There could also be swelling at the base of the thumb.
Rheumatoid Arthritis of the hand – Signs And Symptoms
This auto-immune condition affects the tissues that line the joints and provide lubrication. The tissues could get inflamed and swollen and cause the supporting structures such as tendons and ligaments to get distended, resulting in joint deformities and instability.
Here are the more specific signs to look out for:
- The joints may look red and feel hot.
- Swelling and deformity is most apparent in the knuckles.
- The middle finger joint could get bent.
- Wrist bones can appear more prominent.
- Firm nodules may develop along the fingers.
- A rupture in a tendon could lead to inability to straighten the finger.
- Soft lumps would move at the back of the hand as the fingers straighten.
- Morning stiffness lasts longer than an hour and can occur constantly for at least six weeks.
A combination of physical examination, lab tests (i.e. x-rays and blood tests) and patient history is used for diagnosis.Blood tests are sometimes used to help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis (Osteoarthritis is not associated with blood irregularities). X-rays create detailed pictures of the dense bone structure, and can help determine the particular form of arthritis.
Treatment for arthritis of the hands is primarily designed to relieve pain and ultimately, restore function. Note that surgical treatment options are normally only recommended by doctors as a last resort. So it is also worth being aware of some of the natural remedies for arthritis pain you can try too.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
- To relieve pain and other symptoms, the wrists could be immobilized for a short time with the use of a splint. Soft sleeves may be used instead if the splints prove to be too restrictive.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory or other analgesic medication like aspirin or ibuprofen may reduce pain and swelling.
- Doctors or therapists may prescribe a specific exercise program to improve the range of motion in the area.
- Steroids such as cortisone or other powerful anti-inflammatory medicine can be injected into the wrist joint.
- Heat treatments such as warm wax and paraffin baths may be recommended for minor swelling; cold treatments can be handy for more severe swelling.
- Changing your diet can also help enormously. There are many natural anti-inflammatory foods, and research is continually finding new evidence of the effectiveness of simple food extracts (such as capsaicin which comes from chilli peppers and is just one of the ingredients used in natural treatment products such as Provailen)
- Proximal Row Carpectomy – This entails the removal of arthritic bones, particularly the three carpal bones, to relieve pain and maintain partial wrist motion.
- Partial or Complete Fusion – If motion is the source of pain, the carpal bones could be fused together to reduce motion and eliminate pain. With partial fusion, some wrist movement could still be possible. Complete fusion would entail fusing all carpal bones and the radius together, and would result to complete elimination of wrist movement. This is recommended for widespread arthritis.
- Joint Replacement – The damaged joint could be replaced with an artificial device to retain and even recover wrist movement.
Arthritis in the hands and wrist can be disheartening, but don’t despair as it can be managed.
There are plenty of treatment options, which can also be complemented by other changes in lifestyle such as getting plenty of rest, and reassessing your diet. Consult a doctor to obtain the best treatment plan possible for you.