It’s not the most glamorous part of getting older but, unfortunately, arthritis can be a part of aging for some. Nearly one in four American adults (24% to be exact) struggle with arthritis and arthritis is the number one cause of work-related disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Therefore, it is best to know what to look out for as early detection can make arthritis way easier to live with. Keep reading to learn the signs of arthritis.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis simply means “joint inflammation,” according to the National Institute of Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIH). Joints are the point where two separate bones touch to allow bending such as your knees, elbows, wrists, etc., according to the NIH. Arthritis in the hands can be particularly problematic due to the fact that there are a number of joints in the hands.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the three most common types of arthritis in the hands include:
This degenerative form of arthritis makes the cartilage that shields your bones from rubbing up against each other gradually wear out. Without the cartilage, the bones begin to directly rub together, which is quite painful. Gradually, this form of arthritis tends to cause trouble with movement.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
This form of arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the joint lining (also called synovium). Over time, the inflammation ruins the cartilage and will eventually damage the bones as well.
This form of arthritis affects the skin as well as the joints. Generally, this happens when someone who already has psoriasis (an autoimmune condition that attacks the skin leaving it swollen, flakey, red, etc.) develops joint pain in addition to their skin issues. Most commonly psoriatic arthritis causes swollen fingers, joint pain, and stiffness in addition to the skin lesions associated with psoriasis.
Signs of arthritis in the hands
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), signs of early arthritis in the hands can include:
- Small cysts on the hands (generally on one of the joints)
- Joint pain that feels dull and/or burning
- The area may actively feel warm to the touch
- Stiffness (normally, in the morning)
- Pain resulting from use
- Joints that feel and/or sound as if the bones are grinding on each other
How to diagnose arthritis in the hands
Diagnosing arthritis is normally done through a simple examination by your doctor accompanied by x-rays, according to the AAOS. The CDC notes that lab work should also be done to test for markers that could hint if your particular case of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
A thorough workup is important as treatments will vary depending on the cause and the type of arthritis you have. For example, RA is often treated with specific medications that help control the immune response that is attacking your tissue. Plus, in all forms of arthritis, early treatment is crucial for preventing damage, so an accurate diagnosis is essential.
What helps arthritis in the hands?
According to the CDC, there are several ways to reduce the symptoms of arthritis including:
- Getting enough aerobic exercise
- Avoiding activities that strain the joints
- Avoid becoming overweight or, if you’re already overweight, losing weight
- Being proactive with your treatment plan
The Cleveland Clinic also recommends the following for dealing with arthritis:
- Strengthening and stretching exercises that are recommended and taught to you by a medical professional
- Ice packs to reduce swelling
- Hot packs to relieve tension
- Resting the joint when it needs it
- A healthy diet
- Managing cholesterol and diabetes
Best products for arthritis in the hands
While having an often-painful condition is never easy, there are now so many products that make dealing with such issues easier and more comfortable. Some of the best products for arthritis in the hands include:
- Assistant devices such as easy grip pens, easy open painkiller bottles, jar openers, handrails, etc.
- Compression sleeves and gloves
- Topical pain relief creams, sprays, etc.
- Ice packs
- Heating pads or heated gloves
How to prevent arthritis in hands
According to the Cleveland Clinic, there isn’t any way to “prevent” or cure arthritis. However, early diagnosis and treatment can delay further damage. Also, there are risk factors that put you at a higher risk of developing arthritis.
Risk factors for arthritis
If you have a genetic predisposition for getting arthritis there are ways to keep it at bay as long as possible. According to the Cleveland Clinic, being overweight and smoking both increase your risk of developing arthritis. Therefore, getting enough exercise, eating a balanced healthy diet, and not smoking will all help you avoid the pain of arthritis for as long as possible.
Arthritis in the hands can be painful and can quickly affect one’s quality of life (especially when left untreated). By knowing the signs and the symptoms, and keeping on top of your health, you can detect arthritis early and be advised on the best ways to prevent further damage. There are many treatment options available to help you live your best life with arthritis. Never be afraid to ask about your treatment options.
If you or a loved one is suffering from arthritis, check out the many services that could benefit you and your condition at Haven Health.
Arthritis of the Hand. (2021).
Arthritis of the Hand. (2023).
Arthritis pain: Treatments absorbed through your skin. (2021).