RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS OF THE HAND

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis literally means “inflamed joint.” Normally a joint consists of two smooth, cartilage-covered bone surfaces that fit together as a matched set and that move smoothly against one other. Arthritis results when these smooth surfaces become irregular and don’t fit together well anymore and essentially “wear out.” Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, but it is most noticeable when it affects the hands and fingers.

Arthritis of the hand can be both painful and disabling. The most common forms of arthritis in the hand are osteoarthritis, post-traumatic arthritis (after an injury), and rheumatoid arthritis. Other causes of arthritis of the hand are infection, gout, and psoriasis.

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS OF THE HAND

Rheumatoid Arthritis handsRheumatoid arthritis affects the cells that line and normally lubricate the joints (synovial tissue). The joint lining (synovium) becomes inflamed and swollen and erodes the cartilage and bone. The swollen tissue may also stretch the surrounding ligaments, which are the connective tissues that hold the bones together, resulting in deformity and instability. The inflammation may also spread to the tendons, which are the rope-like structures that link muscles to bones. This can result in stretching out of and ruptures of the tendons. Rheumatoid arthritis of the hand is most common in the wrist and the finger knuckles.

Rheumatoid arthritis beyond the hands

R.A. kneeUnfortunately, Rheumatoid arthritis (R.A.) is a systemic inflammatory disorder and it is rare that a patient would only present with arthritic damage in the hands.  R.A. can damage any joint and will often present with multiple joints afflicted such as the toes, ankle, knees, hips, S.I. joint, spine, shoulder, elbow, wrists, hands, and fingers.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Hands

Stiffness, swelling, and pain are symptoms common to all forms of arthritis in the hand. In rheumatoid arthritis, some joints may be more swollen than others. There is often a sausage-shaped swelling of the finger. There can also be changes to the position of the fingers leading to problems with their appearance.

Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the hands

The number one approach of dealing with rheumatoid arthritis is to slow the damage taking place.  Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis is going to be a multispecialty approach between an orthopedic surgeon and a Rheumatologist. Orthopedic surgeons are brought in to deal with the damage already done and can offer treatments to help maintain flexibility and manage pain.  Rheumatologists are needed to manage and slow the progression of the disease.

If you may have Rheumatoid Arthritis in the hands discuss your options with an orthopedic hand specialist today! 817-375-5200

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