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Arthritis in Hands: What You Need to Know about Join Inflammation

Arthritis is a disease caused by normal wear and tear, an autoimmune disease, or a disease resulting from trauma that causes your joints to be inflamed chronically. Arthritis in hands is a very common place for the inflammation to occur.

The hands and wrists have small joints that work in unison for movement. When these joints are inflamed because of arthritis, simple activities can become difficult, making your day to day life different. Arthritis can occur in more than one area of the hand and wrist.

Experts have estimated that one in five people living in North America have at least one joint with symptoms or sign of arthritis. Half the people suffering with arthritis are over the age of 50. It is the number one cause of disability in the United States alone.

The cartilage in between your joints are your body’s “shock absorbers”. They provide a smooth surface for the joint. Overtime, your joints lose cartilage when you have arthritis. When the cartilage becomes worn or damaged, pain and reduced motion are common.

Your body will attempt to make up for the lost cartilage by producing a fluid where the cartilage once was. This fluid is known as synovium, which tries to act like a cushion. However, it also causes your joint to swell – reducing motion. The swelling causes your joint covering, the capsule, to stretch. This is what causes the pain.

Arthritis in hands will start off with gradual symptoms and the cartilage will decrease slowly. The two most common types of arthritis from disease are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is more common and typically affects the older generation. Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand is passed down genetically from parent to child.

When arthritis is caused by trauma, the cartilage is damaged. People of all ages can be susceptible. Fractures that damage the joint and dislocations are the typically injuries that can result in arthritis. An injured joint is seven times more likely to result in arthritis, even if the injury is treated properly.

Early symptoms of arthritis in hands include a dull pain or burning sensation. This pain typically occurs after periods of prolonged joint use, such as grasping or heavy gripping. The pain may not occur right away, but may show up hours later or even the next day. Stiffness and pain in the morning is typical.

When the cartilage wears down even more, there is less cartilage to absorb shock and the symptoms will occur with even less use. In advanced cases, the joint pain may even disrupt your sleep.  Pain may worsen with use of your hands and alleviated by rest. Often, those with arthritis notice more pain when it rains.

Other symptoms include swelling around the affected joint, as well as changes in the surrounding joints. Patients with advanced thumb base arthritis may notice that the joints neighboring it actually become more mobile.

You may notice some grinding or grating in the affected joint. This is known as crepitation. This is caused by the reduction of cartilage in the joints and the surfaces of the bone are now rubbing together.

If your arthritis affects the end joints of your fingers, tiny cysts may develop and cause dents or ridging of the nail plate in that finger.

Your doctor can diagnose arthritis by examining your hands and taking X-rays. There are specialized tests that can be done, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), but these are typically not needed. Sometimes, a bone scan can help the doctor diagnose arthritis more easily.

Arthritis in hands can definitely change your daily routine. If you suspect your pain and swelling in your hands are caused by arthritis, it is a good idea to visit your family doctor to get it diagnosed sooner than later.

You could also check out our best arthritis gloves comparison chart, and select the type of gloves for arthritis that suits your particular case.

Reference Links:

http://www.assh.org/Public/HandConditions/Pages/ArthritisRheumatoidArthritis.aspx
http://www.onhealth.com/arthritis/article.htm
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/arthritis/DS01122

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