The hand and wrist have multiple small joints that work together to help you get by – you use them to type, write, tie a shoelace and grip onto shopping bags. However, untreated arthritis can lead to difficulty. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) pointed out that inflammation is the common denominator of arthritis. In healthy joints, smooth and slippery tissue called cartilage covers the end of the bones.
This provides a gliding surface for the joint, which is lubricated by an oil-like fluid.
However, when arthritis develops (particularly osteoarthritis), cartilage is worn away.
As the condition progresses, symptoms begin to emerge. For example, in the hands, one of the early indicators is a “dull” pain.
“The pain often occurs after periods of increased joint use, such as heavy gripping or grasping,” said the AAOS.
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The AAOS explained that as even more cartilage wears away, there is “less material to provide shock absorption”, and so symptoms will emerge more frequently.
Arthritis pain may be exacerbated by activity, which is hard not to do when your hands help with so much of daily life.
Even opening up a jar, or turning the key to get indoors, could cause a twinge of pain.
For some people, joints may feel even more painful when the weather is rainy.
The joints may even become loose in the advanced stages of arthritis, meaning the joint becomes misshapen.
This can lead to a pronounced knobbly appearance along the fingers, and small cysts might develop.
A doctor can diagnose arthritis of the hand by taking a look and organising an X-ray.
Sometimes, a bone scan can be helpful, which can identify arthritis in the earlier stages – even when it doesn’t show up on a X-ray.