Osteoarthritis Osteoarthritis (OA) Osteoarthritis is a chronic disorder that causes damage to the cartilage and surrounding tissues and is characterized by pain, stiffness, and loss of function. Arthritis due to damage of joint... read more of the hand causes bones over the outermost joints of the fingers (Heberden nodes) and the middle joints of the fingers (Bouchard nodes) to become larger. These joints and the base of the thumb become stiff and sometimes painful. The wrists and the joints between the fingers and hand are usually not affected. The involved joints can become misaligned.
(See also Overview of Hand Disorders Overview of Hand Disorders Hand and finger disorders include ganglia, deformities, disorders related to nerves or blood vessels, osteoarthritis, trigger finger, Kienböck disease, and infections. Some other disorders that... read more .)
Diagnosis of Osteoarthritis of the Hand
A doctor's examination
Doctors usually can base the diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the hand on an examination. The deformity can also be seen on x-rays X-rays A doctor can often diagnose a musculoskeletal disorder based on the history and the results of a physical examination. Laboratory tests, imaging tests, or other diagnostic procedures are sometimes... read more .
To rule out rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory arthritis in which joints, usually including those of the hands and feet, are inflamed, resulting in swelling, pain, and often destruction of joints.... read more and other types of arthritis, doctors do blood tests to look for indications of inflammation Laboratory Tests A doctor can often diagnose a musculoskeletal disorder based on the history and the results of a physical examination. Laboratory tests, imaging tests, or other diagnostic procedures are sometimes... read more . These tests are almost always negative in people who have osteoarthritis.
Treatment of Osteoarthritis of the Hand
Measures to relieve pain
Occasionally an injection of a corticosteroid or surgery
Treatment of osteoarthritis of the hand may include range-of-motion exercises in warm water (to relieve pain during the exercises and to keep the joints as flexible as possible), rest, splinting intermittently to prevent deformity, and use of analgesics or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs In some cases, treating the underlying disorder eliminates or minimizes the pain. For example, setting a broken bone in a cast or giving antibiotics for an infected joint helps reduce pain.... read more ) to relieve pain and swelling.
Occasionally, a corticosteroid Corticosteroids Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory arthritis in which joints, usually including those of the hands and feet, are inflamed, resulting in swelling, pain, and often destruction of joints.... read more may need to be injected into severely affected joints to relieve pain and increase range of motion.
Sometimes, when osteoarthritis is advanced and other treatments are not effective, the joint may need to be reconstructed or fused surgically. The hand joint that most often requires surgery for osteoarthritis is the one at the base of the thumb.