People with arthritis experience aches and pains in different parts of their bodies. If you’ve been experiencing persistent aches in your hands, you may be wondering whether you have arthritis. You may also experience pain and stiffness in your hand joints, along with tenderness and swelling. Don’t jump to conclusions just yet because several types of arthritis can cause pain and discomfort in your hands.
The two most common forms of arthritis in the hands are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The first is caused by wear and tear on the joints, while the second is caused by inflammation. OA can appear at a young age, usually after age 40. On the other hand, RA typically affects people between the ages of 20 to 40 years old.
A few other characteristics can help you determine which type of arthritis is in your hands, but it’s often difficult to tell with certainty. For this reason, we’ll go into detail about hand arthritis, so read on below to learn all about it.
How Hand Pain Occurs
In some cases, persistent hand pain is usually a sign of Dupuytren’s contracture (DC). DC is a condition in which the tissue of the hand and fingers becomes thickened and tight, causing the fingers to become permanently bent inward. DC is not well understood, though some cases are linked with people who are smoking or drinking a lot of alcohol and having seizures or diabetes.
If you have Dupuytren’s contracture, your doctor will probably recommend splinting the affected finger. This splint prevents further contracture of the tissue. You may have to wear this splint full-time, or only at night, for periods of weeks or months. Sometimes, erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) are given to help prevent the thickening of the tissue.
How Hand Arthritis Is Diagnosed
Your doctor will rely on various tests to determine if you indeed have hand arthritis. The tests may be any of the following:
These are the tests your doctor will use to diagnose arthritis in your hands:
- Medical History – Your doctor will ask you about any trauma you may have experienced to your hands, including if you’ve ever broken your wrist or fallen on your hand, сhest, or fingers.
- Physical Exam – Your doctor will check your joints and surrounding tissues for inflammation and may also test your strength and range of motion. They also will check your hand for deformities such as swelling that might indicate arthritis and examine your fingers for nodules. Your doctor will also ask you about any trauma you may have experienced on your hands, including if you’ve ever broken your wrist or fallen on your hand, сhest, or fingers in the past.
- X-Rays – If your doctor suspects arthritis, they may order a round of X-rays to confirm a diagnosis and look for a bone injury if the pain is recent. If you have a prior injury that led to arthritis, X-rays won’t show joint damage.
- Blood Tests. If your doctor suspects an inflammatory disease, they may order a blood test to check for rheumatoid factor, a blood test that helps predict a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
Treating Hand Arthritis
If you are diagnosed with hand arthritis, treatment will depend on the type of arthritis, the pain you are experiencing, and your overall health.
Hand splinting is the most effective treatment. It’s vital to wear the splint even when you don’t feel pain. At first, the splinting is likely to cause pain and discomfort, and your finger may also swell and become tender. You don’t have to worry because you’ll only need time to adjust to the splint. You may find your regular activities challenging while wearing the splint, but don’t worry because the splint will not limit your normal activities.
Other treatment options may include:
- Pain or anti-inflammatory medications
- Heat or ice packs
- Steroid injections (talk to your doctor first!)
- Surgery (Only a last resort option)
Developing hand arthritis is scary, but you shouldn’t fear it because there are ways to treat it. Regardless, it’s still recommended that you rest your hands every so often so that you won’t get it. You’ll be saving money in the long run, so you should always protect your hands to prevent hand arthritis from happening.
North Florida provides programs for hand pain treatment. We can’t do most things without our hands, so it’s only right that you get them checked as soon as you feel constant pain. Contact us today for a consultation!