Arthritis of the Hand

What Is Arthritis of the Hand?

Arthritis in the hands can cause everyday activities, like tying a shoelace, buttoning a shirt, or opening a lid, to be difficult.  

Arthritis is worn or damaged cartilage in the joints. Cartilage, a flexible connective tissue, allows a smooth gliding surface for the joints in motion. Worn and damaged cartilage causes the joints to be painful and have restricted mobility. Furthermore, the body tries to produce more fluid in the joint to make up for lost cartilage, which causes swelling and pain in the joints.  

The Yale Hand and Microsurgery Program has some of the top doctors and specialists in the nation to provide you with complete care and leading-edge surgical techniques.

Causes of Arthritis of the Hand

Arthritis is extremely common, occurring in one out of five people in the United States.

It can have multiple causes, but generally occurs due to trauma or disease. Although it is thought of as an “old age” disease, more than half of people suffering from arthritis are under age 50. 

It occurs when cartilage is worn or damaged or when the ligament supporting the joint is damaged.

Symptoms of Arthritis of the Hand

If you have arthritis in your hands, you may feel several symptoms, including:

  • Pain: A dull or burning pain in one or several of your joints in your fingers, hands, or wrists is common. Arthritis pain generally occurs or worsens with increased use of the joints¸ especially with heavy lifting or grasping. Pain and stiffness may be more common in the morning. Because cartilage is worn, many people feel a grating or grinding sensation when moving the finger, wrist, or hand joints.  
  • Swelling/Inflammation: You may also experience swelling in your joints and limited range of motion. When joints are inflamed due to arthritis, they will most likely feel warm to the touch. 
  • Flexible Joints: You may find that the joints near the arthritic joint become more flexible. 
  • Cysts: When arthritis affects the end joints of the fingers, small cysts can develop. The cysts can cause ridging or dents in the nail of the arthritic finger.
This list should be used as a guideline. Not every symptom is included. If you or a loved one has one or more of these symptoms, it does not mean that he or she has arthritis of the hand. If you are concerned that you or a loved one might have arthritis of the hand, please make an appointment with your doctor.

Treatments for Arthritis of the Hand

Arthritis in the hands can cause tremendous pain and discomfort and can interfere with normal daily activities. If non-surgical treatment hasn’t offered you relief, you may be a candidate for surgical treatment. 

At the Yale Hand and Microsurgery Program, our team of top surgeons and specialists will create a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs. J. Grant Thomson, MD, FRCS, FACS, and Michael Matthew, MD, implement the latest research and procedures to work with the delicate structures of the hand and fingers.  

First and foremost, we will preserve or reconstruct your existing joint if possible. If the damage to your joint is past repair, we use a joint replacement to improve joint function. Most of the major joints of the hand and wrist can be replaced. 

Dr. Thomson and Dr. Matthew specialize in hand surgery and arthritic hand reconstruction.