Arthritis can occur in many areas of the hand and wrist and can have more than one cause.
The hand and wrist have many small joints that all work together to produce movement, including the fine motion needed to thread a needle or tie a shoelace. When the joints are affected by arthritis, activities of a patient’s daily life can be difficult.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that usually occurs later in life and commonly affects the hands and larger weight-bearing joints such as hips and knees. Whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that commonly begins in the hands, wrists, ankles, and feet and often affects the same joints on each side of the body. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, though genetic factors are thought to be critical.
Treatment of arthritis typically consists of:
- cutting back on the activities that are causing pain
- splinting the affected joint for short periods of time
- applying heat/ice to reduce pain and swelling
- taking acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce pain and swelling.
- injecting joints with a cortisone preparation to relieve symptoms for a period of time.
- gently exercising the joints through the full range of motion on a daily basis
- reconstructive or joint fusion surgery