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Our hands are capable of many functions, providing precision for delicate tasks as well as enabling us to complete heavier, physically
If you’re living with arthritis in your hands, fingers, or thumbs, protecting your joints is so important. The 29 joints in our hands are common areas for arthritis, and when these joints become arthritic they can make every day activities very difficult and even painful.
While not everyone with arthritis in the joints in hands will experience all of these symptoms and some people may not even have any symptoms at all, below are some common symptoms for hand arthritis:
Osteoarthritis is an arthritic condition that affects the whole joint including bone, cartilage, ligaments and muscles. While this form of arthritis can affect other areas of the body, fingers and hands are very common. In osteoarthritis, the joint at the base of the thumb is often affected and can result in difficulty gripping or pinching objects. Other finger joints can also be affected and bumps called Herbeden’s nodes and Bouchard’s nodes may appear in the joint at the end of the finger, closest to the nail or the middle joints.
Gout is associated with high levels of uric acid in the blood, causing crystals to form in the joints. The affected joint
becomes red, swollen and is intensely painful to touch. It usually comes on very quickly, often overnight, normally affecting one joint at a
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) causes a unique type of swelling with fingers taking on a characteristic ‘sausage like’ appearance. The bones themselves can also become inflamed and painful. Pitting of the nails may also be present.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) often starts in smaller joints such as in the hand or wrist. One of the early signs of RA in the hands is an inability to form a complete fist.
It usually occurs in a symmetrical pattern, affecting both hands including the knuckle joints, middle finger joints and wrists. People with
long-standing RA or those diagnosed later in life may notice a deviation of their fingers to the side, away from the thumb.
Surrounding tendons can also become inflamed, affecting the ability to straighten fingers. People with RA are also more susceptible to
developing carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition caused by pressure on nerves that run through the wrist, with symptoms of numbness, pins and
needles, and pain.
To help manage hand arthritis, your healthcare team might suggest some of the following treatments and therapies:
Talk to your doctor, specialist or treating allied health professional about the various medications, exercises and other treatment options for hand arthritis.
Talk to your doctor, specialist or allied health professional about the various medications, exercises and other treatment options for hand arthritis.
For more tips on managing your arthritis, read our Hands and arthritis information sheet, or access our free information sheets on a range of topics including areas of the body, types of arthritis and the ways it can be managed.
Browse more of our Arthritis Insights articles for more information on pain and arthritis of the hands.
Arthritis & Osteoporosis WA Arthritis & Osteoporosis NSW, Arthritis Matters Winter 2016
Arthritis Australia. At home with arthritis: Simple steps for managing in the home. Sydney: Arthritis Australia, 2010.
Arthritis Australia. Hands and arthritis [fact sheet]. Sydney: Arthritis Australia, 2007, reviewed 2013.