Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rheumatoid Arthritis in Fingers and Hands | Symptoms - Treatments

Image credit © to
“PHANIE / Photo Researchers, Inc”
Arthritis is a health condition that often associated with the inflammation of joints, with joint pain & stiffness are the major symptoms that usually occur. The symptoms can develop quickly or gradually, but usually often worsen as you get older or worsen with the age. There are a lot of types of arthritis, and arthritis in fingers and hands is usually associated with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis (both are the most common arthritis types)! You might also like to read about trigger finger and home remedies for arthritis!

How many types of arthritis are there?

According to a published article on WebMD, there are approximately more than 100 arthritis types! And unfortunately, the cases of arthritis tend to increase every year, which will be about 67 million cases of U.S adults with arthritis in 2030.

You may also be interested to know best foods to promote healthy bones!

In general, (as mentioned before) rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are the most common types of arthritis. The first type is an inflammatory that usually occurs due to the wrong respond of the body’s immune system. And for the second type, it is a kind of inflammation which often called as ‘wear & tear arthritis’!

Other less common types are septic arthritis, psoriatic, lupus, and gout (a condition of inflammation in the joints due to crystals that collect/flock in the joints).

What is actually osteoarthritis?

There are some components in the joints -- some of them are the bone itself, synovial membrane, and eroded cartilage.

Image credit © to WebMD
In a normal joint, there is a rubbery material that has function to cover the ends of the bones so thus the friction  in the joints can be reduced or absorbed - this material is called ‘cartilage’ or also familiar known as shock-absorbed of the joints. 

Osteoarthritis (or also familiar called as ‘OA’) is usually triggered by a breakdown of cartilage. This condition can occur/develop in almost any joint of our body, but more common occurs in the joints of hips, spine, and knees. It also can affect large toe, thumb, neck, and fingers. Osteoarthritis usually don’t affect/impair other joints, unless for other joints with previous injury or when excessive stress is involved.

In a joint with osteoarthritis, the function of cartilage doesn’t work well because it usually has lack of elasticity and becomes stiff -- over time the performance of cartilage for shock-absorber decreases drastically which then result a pain in the joint. If left untreated, the condition can get worse and then there is a chance for the bones in a joint to rub against each other.

In many cases, OA usually only affect one joint (asymmetrically)! For example, if you have OA in knee, one knee is only affected while another is usually not affected. But sometimes OA may also occur symmetrically!

Risk factors of osteoarthritis (OA)

There are some conditions/factors that put someone at higher chance of developing OA -- these factors may include:
  1. The overuse of joints! A condition or certain activity that are followed with overuse of certain joint may cause OA. For instance, if you have certain activity or job that requires repeated bending of your knee then there is higher chance for you to experience osteoarthritis in the knee.
  2. Being overweight! Some studies found that there is a link between obesity and high risk of having OA of spine, hip, and knee. 
  3. Injury in certain joints! Did you know that injuries can give contribution in developing osteoarthritis? For instance, if you are an athlete and you have a knee-related injury, you may have higher chance of having OA of the knee. 
  4. There are also certain diseases that may contribute to increase your risk of developing OA, such as when the growth of hormone occurs/grows excessively. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, there is also higher chance for you to develop OA.
  5. And heredity! There are some individuals who get inherited defect of genes that are responsible in making cartilage. This condition can lead to defective cartilage, which then causes the rapidly deterioration of joints. The risk of OA in the spine is high for people who born with abnormalities in the spine.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (or also often called as ‘RA’) is a kind of autoimmune disease. In other words, (as written before) the inflammation is caused by the wrong respond of the immune system that attacks certain parts of the body (joints). 

In a joint with RA, the synovial membrane usually becomes inflamed which then will cause pain & swelling. The synovial membrane is important for the joint, because it has function to lubricant and protects the joints!

Most patients with RA are dominated by women, and about 1-3 percent of women are likely to experience RA in their lifetime -- according to ACR (the American College of Rheumatology).

RA can be categorized into a chronic disorder! This means that it may never go away completely & usually worsen over time - though there may be also occasional sign-free periods. And over time, there is a chance for the chronic inflammation to cause deformities (severe joint damage)! 

Furthermore, about 1 in 5 people with RA may experience a condition what we call as rheumatoid nodules (a condition when the lumps are developed on the patient’s skin -- particularly over the areas of joint that often receive pressure, like heels, elbows, and knuckles). 

And unlike osteoarthritis, RA is more likely to occur symmetrically. This means if you have rheumatoid arthritis in your finger or hand, both fingers /hands are usually affected!

Below is a helpful picture ‘rheumatoid arthritis vs. osteoarthritis’:

Image credit © to MayoClinic - Click to enlarge!
Bottom line: you should clearly understand that each arthritis type is different, and therefore each type also needs different approach of the treatment. This suggests that the clearly diagnosis is so crucial and important to decide the right treatment. The right diagnosis is also important to get to know the causes of the pain, so thus patients can get what actually needed to relieve the symptoms.

Causes of rheumatoid arthritis in fingers and hands

The clearly answer for the causes of RA is still not known. But there some possible factors associated with RA, these include:
  1. Hormone! In women, rheumatoid arthritis tends to improve in the period of postpartum (time after delivery) and while breastfeeding. Furthermore, RA is also more likely to improve in a woman with pregnancy.
  2. Other factors that may influence RA are bacterial /viral infection (environmental factors) and genetic factors. Consult more with a doctor for more in-depth information!
Symptoms of arthritis in hands and fingers

The finger joints and wrist joints are the common area when rheumatoid arthritis occurs in hands. And the common symptoms that occur may include:
  1. The joints of finger and joints of hand are more likely to become tender /warm, especially when you touch these areas.
  2. Stiffness and swelling in the finger and hand. Stiffness may last more than 1 hour upon arising.
  3. Finger pain or hand pain. Pain may also last more than 1 hour upon arising.
  4. Tingling, numbness of the hands, or other symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome!
  5. The symptoms of RA usually occur symmetrically (both hands, both wrists, ‘left and right’ fingers).
  6. There is also a chance for deformities to occur in the finger joints.
  7. Crepitus - a sound ‘creak’ from the finger joints when you move the affected fingers. 
  8. Fatigue which is usually difficultly resolved!
  9. If you have rheumatoid arthritis in fingers and hands, there is also a chance for you to experience ‘flu-like feeling’.
  10. Then the inflammation may also affect other symmetrical joints of your body, such as both sides of knees, ankles, hips, shoulders, feet, jaw, and even neck.
Current treatments of rheumatoid arthritis in fingers and hands

In general, the treatment is designed into a multifaceted regimen which may include: 
  1. Educational on how to do ‘self-managing stress’.
  2. Medications! Some common prescribed medications for rheumatoid arthritis may include; (a) DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs), which usually combined with corticosteroids and/or NSAIDs in low doses, (b) biologic response modifiers which are usually prescribed with methotrexate, and (c) NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Talk with a doctor for more detailed information about these drugs!
  3. Do regular exercise & get adequate rest! Regular exercise is so important, because it can give a significant improvement to encourage the flexibility in the affected fingers and hands. 
  4. Splints or/and special aids to reduce pressure on the painful joints.
  5. Physical therapy.
  6. Helpful diet, particularly diet high in foods that contain essential nutrients (such as; vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids) to reduce the inflammation.
  7. Monitoring the progress of the disease (regularly medical check-ups).
  8. And surgery if necessary - it is usually purposed to restore the function of the affected joints.
Reference: WebMD and MayoClinic