The most common symptoms of arthritis of the hands include pain, stiffness, and swelling over the joints. The pain is usually worsened when the joint is moved. Moreover, motion of the joint is frequently limited due to pain and joint contractures.
Symptoms can lead to difficulty with daily living activities including tying shoes, buttoning buttons, opening jars, or turning a key in a lock.
Physical signs of arthritis of the hand include changes in the appearance of the joints. The joints most commonly affected by degenerative arthritis are those at the ends of the fingers. Swelling and bumps, or nodes, can occur at the small joints at the area of the base of the nail. These bumps are called Heberden nodes and can become extremely painful. The joint at the base of the thumb can also become swollen with bone spurs and cause pain and deformity. The joint destruction also leads to severe pain when pinching the fingers together and gripping forcefully. Joint motion limitation can also decrease the ability to grip.
Wrist arthritis can cause pain with motion of the wrist or grasping and lifting. Wrist range of motion is frequently limited by the arthritis. Patients typically experience relief when the wrist is stabilized by a splint.
Rheumatoid arthritis frequently causes swelling, pain, and stiffness in the wrists, as well as the small joints in the middle and at the base of the fingers. This disease frequently causes hand deformities. Tissue lumps called rheumatoid nodules can form over the joints of the hand and wrist. The joints of the fingers and thumb can become deformed and contracted by the destruction of the supporting ligaments, so that grasping and pinching movements are not possible.
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