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Osteoarthritis of the Hand

By

David R. Steinberg

, MD, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Last full review/revision May 2020| Content last modified May 2020
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Osteoarthritis of the hand causes swelling, pain, and sometimes formation of cysts on the finger joints (particularly the outermost ones).

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 Osteoarthritis (OA) 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.

Diagnosis of Osteoarthritis of the Hand

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.

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.

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