Osteoarthritis in the Hand

Osteoarthritis is a disease that affects the lining of our joints where two bones meet and is very common in the hand. As the lining breaks down, the ends of the bone become exposed and rub against each other causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformity. As osteoarthritis in the hand progresses, it can become difficult to complete daily tasks


Osteoarthritis is the most common arthritis in the hand and is known as “wear and tear” or degenerative arthritis. It is caused when cartilage breaks down and bones begin rubbing against each other without protection. There are several factors known to cause osteoarthritis, including older age, obesity, genetics, and injury to the joint.


Osteoarthritis symptoms typically develop slowly and progress in severity over time. Common symptoms include pain, stiffness, tenderness, reduced flexibility, swelling, and a grinding or popping sensation.


In an exam, physicians will look for tenderness, swelling, and flexibility. Cartilage loss may be determined by x-rays and MRIs can be used in complex cases to examine the bone and soft tissue of the hand. Although there is no blood test for osteoarthritis, certain tests can be used to rule out other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.


There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but it can be treated with medications such as acetaminophen and anti-inflammatories to control inflammation and reduce pain. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and wearing a splint can also be effective. In severe cases, surgery may be required.

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