Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) of the Hand (Arthritis Foundation Approved)

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) of the hand is an autoimmune disease that involves swelling of the lining in joints throughout the body. RA of the hand refers to this type of inflammation in the joint lining of the hand or fingers. Individuals who develop this condition tend to experience progressive symptoms that can become incredibly painful. 

Why Does RA Develop in the Hand?

There is not always a precise cause for RA of the hand. This disease is more likely to develop in middle aged or elderly patients. Also, certain patients may have a genetic likelihood of developing RA of the hand.

Ultimately, RA of the hand develops when there is swelling or inflammation of the joint lining. Referred to medically as the synovial membrane, the joint lining can become inflamed and leak into surrounding areas. Eventually, RA produces a chemical substance that erodes the structure of the affected joint. 

What are the Symptoms of RA of the Hand?

The symptoms of RA of the hand can include but are not limited to:

  • Sharp pain or dull stiffness in the hand or fingers; 
  • Swelling, inflammation, or unusual warmth in the hand;
  • Deformity or contracture in the hand or fingers;
  • Lumps, cysts, or similar nodules protruding from the skin; or
  • Reduced strength or limited range of motion in the hand or fingers. 

RA of the hand symptoms tend to get progressively worse with time. At first, patients will likely experience minor irritation or inflammation. But when RA begins to erode the joints and other tissues, patients can develop contracture or deformity and experience serious pain. 

How Can a Doctor Diagnose RA of the Hand?

In order to properly diagnose a patient with RA of the hand, a doctor will generally execute the following steps:

  • Review the patient’s medical history. The patient’s medical history can reveal important details about the severity and frequency of symptoms and other risk factors. 
  • Conduct a physical examination. A physical examination can demonstrate swelling and reduced mobility as well as joint deformity or contracture.
  • Administer blood tests. Blood tests can reveal the presence of certain antibodies that have a close relationship to RA of the hand.
  • Run imaging tests. Imaging tests, such as X-rays and MRIs, can demonstrate the extent to which affected bones have eroded. 

What are the Treatment Options for RA of the Hand?

As an autoimmune disease, RA of the hand is tough to diagnose or treat. In that sense, patients should seek out professional help as soon as possible. Ignoring symptoms or attempting self-treatment can a negative impact on a patient’s long-term options. 

Unfortunately, there is not a cure for RA of the hand. Accordingly, treatment focuses on minimizing inflammation with the ultimate goal of reducing symptoms as much as possible. To achieve this end, medical treatment for RA of the hand can include:

  • Anti-inflammatory prescriptions;
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs);
  • Biological response modifiers;
  • Physical/occupational therapy;
  • Wearing a splint or brace; or
  • Surgery, if conservative treatment fails to address the issue. 

Do You Have the Signs of RA of the Hand?

If you have any of the signs or symptoms of RA of the hand, it can be markedly constructive to seek out an accomplished orthopaedic doctor. At the Orthopaedic Associates of Riverside, we have board-certified doctors who specialize in various orthopaedic procedures, including Arthritis Foundation approved treatment of RA of the hand. If you need medical treatment for RA or another condition, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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