Learn about the causes and symptoms of arthritis in the hands and wrists,
as well as treatment options.
Your hands play an important role in many of your daily tasks, such as
writing out a grocery list or opening the lid on a jar of peanut butter.
But if you have arthritis, everyday activities like these can be painful.
Arthritis in the hands or wrists is a significant problem for many people
in the U.S., according to the
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options that can help ease the pain.
Causes of arthritis in the hand and wrist
Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can affect the hands and wrists.
osteoarthritis, cartilage wears away causing bones to rub together. Causes of osteoarthritis
- Normal wear and tear on the joint.
- An injury.
A joint that's been injured is nearly seven times more likely to develop
arthritis than an uninjured joint, even if the injury is properly treated,
according to the AAOS. Arthritis can even develop years later as the result
of a childhood injury.
One place in the hand often affected by osteoarthritis is the joint where
the thumb attaches to the wrist. This joint allows the thumb to swivel
and pinch so you can grip things. Arthritis of the thumb is seen most
often in women over age 40, according to AAOS. If you have arthritis in
the thumb, you may notice symptoms such as swelling at the base of the
thumb and pain when trying to do things such as turn a key or snap your fingers.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects the lining of the joints. It's
caused by a malfunction in the immune system.
Rheumatoid arthritis usually starts in smaller joints, so the fingers and
wrists will typically have symptoms before the knees and hips, according to the
National Institutes of Health. The disease usually happens in a symmetrical pattern. This means if one
wrist has arthritis, so will the other one. People with this form of arthritis
may have other symptoms such as feeling tired and a fever.
Signs of arthritis
The first symptoms of arthritis in the hands or wrists might be a dull
aching or burning sensation after heavy gripping or grasping. The pain
might get better with rest and get worse the more you use your hands.
According to the AAOS you might also experience the following symptoms:
- Pain and stiffness—these symptoms may be particularly bad in the morning.
- Limited motion.
Swelling in the wrist joint could eventually lead to carpal tunnel syndrome
because it puts pressure on the nerves that travel through the wrists.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can also spread to other joints in the
body, such as the knees or feet.
Relief from pain and swelling are the main goals of early treatment when
you have arthritis.
Your doctor will treat your symptoms based on the type of arthritis you
have. For instance, rheumatoid arthritis can affect other parts of your
body in addition to the joints, so the medicines your doctor prescribes
will be different than those for a person who has osteoarthritis.
In addition to medications, your doctor may also recommend specific exercises
to ease pain. In some cases, wearing a splint to protect the affected
joint can help.
You might also want to try changing the way you do the activities that
cause pain. Find
everyday tips for managing daily tasks when you have arthritis.
If initial treatments don't help, you might need surgery. Types of
surgery for arthritis in the hand and wrist include:
Joint fusion. In this procedure, doctors fuse the joint together to relieve arthritis
pain. The downside to this procedure is that the joint can no longer move.
Joint replacement. This is a fairly new surgery option for people with arthritis of the hand
or wrist. The diseased joint is replaced with artificial parts, such as
long-lasting metal or ceramic implants. Most of the major joints of the
hand and wrist can be replaced with these implants. If it is the thumb
joint affected by arthritis, the surgeon can remove part of the joint
and reconstruct it with a tendon graft or an artificial substance.
Talk with your doctor
Whether arthritis pain affects your hands, wrists or other parts of your
body, it's not something you have to live with. See your doctor about
ways to ease arthritis pain.