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Hand Arthritis

  • What is Hand Arthritis?

    Arthritis is a general term for swelling in the joints. Arthritis of the hands specifically refers to swelling of the wrist and/or finger joints, a common cause of pain in the hands.

  • Arthritis tends to occur in older patients or those who have previously injured their hand. Some may have other forms of inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis or gouty arthritis.

  • The symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid (inflammatory) arthritis are similar. These include:

    • Grinding, clicking or cracking feelings in the affected joint with movement
    • Abnormally shaped joints
    • Pain in the affected joint – which may worsen when the joint is used (eg. when gripping heavy objects), but is relieved with rested
    • Pain may become more constant over time – changing from a dull ache to a sharp pain, which sometimes spreads beyond the affected joint
    • Reduced movement in the affected joint
    • Swollen red joints that are tender to touch
    • Weak joints

    People with rheumatoid (inflammatory) arthritis may have longer morning stiffness and more swelling and redness of the joints than those with osteoarthritis.

  • Treatment includes:

    • Exercise to help maintain the strength of the muscles and ligaments to stabilise the joints
    • Medicines:
      1. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs for rheumatoid arthritis
      2. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain, swelling, and stiffness in osteoarthritis
      3. Steroids, injected directly into a joint to relieve pain and swelling
    • Physiotherapy for exercises to stabilise the joint
    • Surgery to correct joint deformity or to replace a badly damaged joint
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