Arthritis In Fingers
Could Your Pain Be Caused By Arthritis in the Fingers?
If you think you may be suffering from arthritis in the fingers, you are probably experiencing pain and difficulty in performing basic tasks like typing and opening jars. This article will help you to understand a little more about arthritis, how it develops, and what can be done to relieve it.
An arthritic joint is one that has lost cartilage through injury, overuse, or aging. Cartilage absorbs shock and provides a smooth surface for joints to slide against. When this cartilage becomes worn, that surface is compromised. Much of the pain of arthritis comes from joints rubbing together where cartilage has been depleted or destroyed.
Our bodies attempt to compensate for the loss of cartilage by producing synovium, a fluid that is meant to cushion the affected joints. Unfortunately, synovium also causes swelling. The swelling restricts motion and can increase pain as it causes the joint covering to stretch.
Arthritis can develop as a result of trauma that affects the cartilage. This can happen to people of all ages and the most common culprit is fracture or dislocation of a related bone. A joint that has been injured is much more likely to eventually become arthritic.
When arthritis is due to disease, the decrease in cartilage happens slowly. If you have a pre-existing condition, talk to your doctor about whether it could contribute to arthritis.
If left untreated, arthritis can make the bones that attach to the arthritic joint lose their shape, which causes more pain and further restricts movement.
There are some things to look for in determining whether arthritis is the culprit in your case.
- Dull pain that worsens after using fingers and/or in the morning
- Burning feeling in fingers
- Pain worsens over time
- Symptoms exacerbated by rainy weather
- Changes in surrounding joints (sometimes nearby joints will move past their normal range as they attempt to compensate for the arthritic joint)
- Heat emanates from joint (this comes with the inflammation associated with arthritis)
- Grinding sound or sensation (from joints scraping against one another without proper cushioning)
- Joint appears larger than usual
Diagnosis and Treatment
A doctor can diagnose arthritis by taking an x-ray. Arthroscopy may also be used in determining whether you have arthritis in the fingers. Arthroscopy involves the insertion of a tiny camera, and is minimally invasive. This can help doctors to gauge the extent of the damage to the arthritic joints and surrounding areas.
If you are diagnosed with arthritis, your doctor will probably prescribe some sort of medication. Anti-inflammatory drugs can also be extremely helpful for pain and swelling. Tylenol and ibuprofen are available over the counter and can help to relieve inflammation. While these medications can lessen the severity of the symptoms, they cannot stop or erase the damage done by arthritis. A doctor may also use injected anesthetic to provide weeks of pain relief at a time. However, such treatments can only be given a limited number of times on any one joint.
Your physician might splint the joint to immobilize it for certain periods, but this should only be done temporarily to avoid muscle atrophy from underuse. If your joints are extremely damaged, you might be a candidate for arthritis surgery.
Sometimes, your doctor will recommend surgical treatment. When performing surgery on an arthritic joint, doctors first see if they are able to preserve or reconstruct the existing joint. When damage is so extensive that the bone surfaces have been compromised, a fusion is often done. This will forever inhibit certain types of movement within the joint, but it can provide much pain relief. Doctors have had a lot of success with fusions in the hand and fingers. Most of the major joints of the hand and wrist can be replaced with relative ease and patients report positive post-op results.
Physical therapy post-surgery can help to ensure that the joints surrounding the arthritic one continue to function normally and that the joint that was operated on heals properly. Working with your physical therapist and following the exercises and guidelines he or she recommends can make a huge difference in how well you are able to use your fingers and wrist after surgery.