Arthritis in the Hand and Wrist

Arthritis is a group of conditions that cause inflammation in and around the joints. The hands and wrists are commonly affected by arthritis, whether it is post-traumatic, degenerative or inflammatory in nature. Arthritis in the hand and wrist causes pain, stiffness, deformities and loss of function. The hand and wrist have multiple small joints that work together to allow you to grip the smallest of items. Joints are affected by arthritis often make daily tasks difficult.

Symptoms of arthritis may include:
  • Warm, swollen, stiff joints
  • Painful joints
  • Reduced grip or function in the hand
  • Deformities of the fingers or hands
  • Reduced sensation in the hands
What are the causes of arthritis?

There are various different kinds of arthritis, but the ones which affect the hands and wrists most commonly are rheumatoid, osteoarthritis and psoriatic arthritis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – this is an inflammatory disease which affects the entire body, causing irritation of the membranes surrounding joints and tendons eventually resulting in bone erosion and joint deformity. While rheumatoid arthritis affects the entire body, in 80% of cases, the hands are affected.
  • Osteoarthritis – this type of arthritis is known as a degenerative disease in which the joint surfaces become damaged over time, as we age.
  • Psoriatic arthritis – this type of arthritis causes the lining of the joint to become inflamed, causing the joint to become loose or crooked.
How is arthritis treated?

Depending on the degree of joint involvement and the patient's individual requirements, a wide variety of treatment options are available. Splinting, adaptive devises and activity modification are all used where surgery is not necessary or desirable. Furthermore, your hand therapist or hand surgeon can advise you on how to look after your joints and manage pain, aiming to help you enhance the functioning of your hands and wrists and prevent deformity.

Surgery is advised for cases where pain or functionality cannot be obtained with the above-mentioned techniques. Many different procedures can be performed, ranging from arthroscopy, joint debridements, fusion or replacement (arthroplasty). The best option for each joint will be decided on by taking into account the individual's preferences, needs and circumstances.