Finger Arthritis

There are many signs, symptoms, and treatment of arthritic fingers. This is a big problem because arthritis causes damage to the normal joint surface. The joints normally have junctions that have special surfaces to allow smooth motion, which is called cartilage. When this cartilage is damaged, arthritis is the condition that results.

Two different types of arthritis commonly affect the fingers. These are the characteristics of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis:

    • Osteoarthritis is also called wear-and-tear arthritis and is the most common type of finger arthritis. The normal cartilage is steadily worn away, exposing bare bone at the joints for those people with osteoarthritis. The joints in the hand and the knuckles of the mid-finger and fingertip along with the joint at the base of the thumb, are the most frequently affected joints in the hand.
    • Rheumatoid Arthritis causes a different type of joint destruction and is a systemic disease that can cause a number of problems. This can cause inflammation of the soft-tissue surrounding joints. The knuckles at the base of the fingers are the most commonly affected joints in the hand.

Some of the signs and symptoms of finger arthritis include:

1. Joint pain
2. Swelling
3. Stiffness
4. Loss of motion

knucklesLumps or nodules around the knuckles of the fingers often develop in patients with osteoarthritis. These lumps are called Heberden’s nodes or Bouchard’s nodes and consist of bone spurs around the joints that often become enlarged, swollen and stiff. Very often people with this type of arthritis complain that their rings can’t be removed or fit any longer. More complex deformities of the hands can also be symptoms and the fingers may begin to shift from their normal position and drift away from the thumb.

The early treatment for finger arthritis is focused on managing the symptoms to avoid surgery. Some treatment options are:

  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications
  • Joint Supplements
  • Cortisone Injections
  • Hand Therapy
  • Ice and Heat Treatment
  • Splints

Surgery may be necessary if these treatments fail. Several procedures may be done for the fingers, including removing bone spurs, fusing the joint and replacing the joint, with the most common surgery being a finger joint fusion. The joint is held in a fixed position to prevent any further motion at the affected joint in this procedure. If you do have surgery, they can also straighten any deformity and remove any bone spurs you might have.

If you have finger joint replacement it can be a very effective procedure for some people. Those with an artificial finger joint can maintain mobility of the joint without the pain of arthritis and again, deformities and bone spurs can be addressed during this procedure. This procedure is not designed for strenuous activity or heavy labor. Implants may be made of metal, plastic, ceramic or a combination and can wear out over time, and therefore they need to be protected from too much activity.

~Dr Fredda Branyon