Rheumatoid arthritis in the hands is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints and the tendons of the fingers, hand, and wrist. Autoimmune diseases occur when your body is attacked by its own immune system. Inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis can become so severe that the joints of your fingers and wrists are deformed, making it difficult to move. Other joints such as knee can also be affected. Additionally, lumps, known as rheumatoid nodules, may form on your hands, wrists, arms and legs
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Hands
The disease often causes inflammation symmetrically in your body, meaning the same joints are affected on both sides. For example, if you have rheumatoid arthritis in one hand, it will most likely affect the other hand, too. Each individual may experience symptoms differently. You may experience some or all of these common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the hands:
If a person has four or more of the following symptoms they may be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in the hands:
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the hands may resemble other medical conditions, so it is important to consult your doctor about your symptoms. The experienced orthopaedic experts at North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute's Hand and Wrist Services in New York treat rheumatoid arthritis in the hands and wrists as well as a broad range of conditions affecting those areas.
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Hands
The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis in the hands is not known. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, which means the body's immune system attacks its own tissues. The body's response to the attack causes inflammation in and around the joints which may eventually destroy the joints and surrounding structures such as tendons. Rheumatoid arthritis also may have devastating effects on other organs such as the heart and lungs.
Risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis include:
Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis of the hands range from nonsurgical treatments like anti-inflammatory and other disease modifying drugs, hand therapy, and lifestyle changes to a variety of surgical procedures that reduce pain and restore functionality to the affected areas.