There are different types of arthritis and each type has specific characteristics.
Osteoarthritis is very common and can cause significant disability in the hand. Patients usually complain of hand problems including pain, stiffness, swelling, weakness and difficulty performing everyday tasks.
These tasks include for example opening jars, turning a key in a door, turning door knobs and other tasks that had previously been taken for granted. Joints can become deformed in shape and easy to knock or catch. Rings that used to fit become difficult and sometimes impossible to remove without being cut.
The cause of osteoarthritis is wear and tear of the cartilage resulting in bone grating on bone at the level of the joint. This causes inflammation and pain.
There are various strategies for managing symptoms. Treatment is tailored to each patient individually and is best combined with hand therapy support. Activity modification, exercise, gadgets and splints are amongst the more conservative management options.
For more troublesome symptoms steroid injection under X-ray control often provides symptomatic relief but takes a couple of weeks to work. It last for a variable period of time.
Surgical procedures are reserved for severe disease when less invasive options have failed to provide adequate symptom relief. This may involve removal of a bone (for example trapeziectomy in base of thumb arthritis), joint replacement or joint fusion (permanent stiffening of a joint).