How Arthritis starts in hands? Arthritis attacks the protective tissues responsible for maintaining effortless and smooth movement within the joints.
As the tissues begin to deteriorate, the bones within the affected joints become excessively exposed, start to grind against each other, and make movement difficult.
Hand Arthritis can affect different parts of the hand, such as the knuckles, fingers, or the wrist. Depending on the subtype, the condition can lead to bony lumps forming within the hands, more commonly within the fingers.
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How Arthritis Starts In Hands – What Does Early Hand Arthritis Feel Like?
A commonly occurring sign includes the presence of very dull pain within the affected joints. In the early stages, the pain may be present inconsistently with sudden flares up and remissions throughout the day. It usually flares up after increased joint use, such as extensive typing, cleaning, or lifting weight.
In Arthritis, the unbearable pain can cause the joint to swell up in order to prevent further activity. It is the body’s natural response to make a painful area more painful to use, thereby preventing further engagement. Synovial fluid is a common protector within the joints and acts as a cushion during activity.
The condition leads to excessive synovial fluid around the joints, which can cause inflammation and painful swelling.
While most types of pain usually occur after excessive activity, a prolonged period of rest can also cause joint stiffness. This can feel like numbness or “frozen” muscles that need a warm-up exercise before use.
Any stiffness that stays for more than 30 minutes is a hallmark sign of Rheumatoid Arthritis within the hands.
Crepitation is an unfamiliar sensation of grating or cracking sounds within the affected joints. The lost lubrication from the deteriorating tissues can cause friction between the bones, leading to the grating sensation.
This is more common in Arthritis affecting the joints of the fingers. Small cysts can build up over time, making the fingers appear more “knobby” around the joints. While it is an early symptom, they usually develop very slowly and can take some time to become noticeable.
Arthritis Subtypes Affecting The Hands
There are multiple types of hand arthritis that come with their own specific implications and root causes. Some common types of arthritis that affect the hands are explained below.
It is the most common subtypes of Arthritis affecting the hands. The condition is also known as degenerative arthritis, which causes rapid deterioration of the affected tissues.
When present as hand arthritis, it most commonly affects the base of the thumb, middle and top joints of fingers, and the wrist.
While the root cause of Osteoarthritis is still unknown, it usually happens due to wear and tear in the protective layer of the joints.
This protective layer is responsible for the smooth movement of joints. It becomes weaker and thinner over time, leading to joint-related issues, including reduced range of motion, tenderness, and stiffness.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune condition caused due to the immune system attacking the vital protective tissues of the joints.
These tissues are responsible for creating the lubricating fluid the joint bones need to smoothly glide against each other. Over time, the depleting tissues lead to bone grating and effortful movement.
Compared to osteoarthritis, most cases of rheumatoid Arthritis cause joint deformity and bone erosion in the long run. Joint deformity means your joints lose their alignment and shape as the surrounding tendons and ligaments become weak and stretched.
The condition also affects the same joints at each side of the body. For example, if it affects the middle joints of your finger in one hand, it will likely affect the same joints within the other hand too.
Psoriatic Arthritis is different from other subtypes and affects the skin along with the joints. It usually occurs simultaneously with the skin condition called psoriasis.
The skin condition triggers an immune system response that mistakes the healthy joint tissues as a foreign threat and starts attacking them. The response leads to excessive inflammation within the joint tissues making movement more painful and limited over time.
Common early signs include dry, scaly patches on the skin, swollen fingers, and morning stiffness. While other subtypes typically affect a limited number of joints, psoriatic Arthritis can affect several fingers and other joints.
Types of Hand Arthritis
Fingertip Joint Arthritis
Nearly 10 percent of hand arthritis cases occur due to hereditary arthritis affecting the fingertips. The affected patients often develop nubby bumps near the finger joints. These bumps are caused by an overgrowth of small bones within the joints and don’t accompany any noticeable mobility issues.
Basal Thumb Arthritis
Women, especially of older age, are more likely to develop Basal Thumb Arthritis than men. About 25% of women above the age of 50 are affected by the condition and suffer from joint degeneration. The risk increases with age as more than 50% of women above age 70 are affected by it.
As the name suggests, this type of Arthritis occurs due to a serious injury to the hands, fingers, or the wrist. The injury usually leads to osteoarthritis, which can be harder to detect in the early stages. Undiagnosed fractures or ligament injuries are some of the common causes and can lead to hand arthritis that may go undetected for up to 10 years.
Septic Arthritis is typically caused by a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection. The condition can happen in typically healthy people if bacteria enter the bloodstream and begin to attack the protective tissues.
Bacteria or other infections can find a way into the joint due to other conditions such as kidney infection or a UTI. Skin infections, surgeries, and untreated open wounds can also lead to Septic Hand Arthritis.
Arthritis in the hands can happen due to multiple causes and subtypes. Different subtypes come with their own implications and treatments. While some are more severe and dangerous than others, hand arthritis is a highly manageable condition.
Also, you have to check out my post on Can Arthritis Cause Varicose Veins?
Early diagnosis and treatment can slow down its progress and prevent further damage. For this reason, it’s important to seek professional examination even if you experience dull but consistent pain in your hands.
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