On a daily basis, you do not appreciate the great work done by hand joints. It is thanks to them that you write by hand or on a computer, you bind your shoes, improve your pillow, put on your hairstyle and apply cream on your face. Thanks to them you are able to grow, DIY and cook. In a word, you need them every minute of your life. What would happen if the hand joints immobilized overnight and ceased to perform their functions? Such a scenario may happen to all of us – although adverse changes do not progress rapidly, gradually take away efficiency. The cause of this process may be arthritis of the hands. Check if you are within reach of this condition and how you can help yourself.
Inflammatory changes including palms generally accompany arthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis. In typical cases, the initial stage of the disease focuses on the joints of the hands – the inflammation first attacks the metacarpophalangeal joints (sites of the fingers attachment) and the interphalangeal joints (places at the middle of the fingers). Inflammation of the hand joints usually occurs symmetrically, i.e. it takes both hands simultaneously. Mostly, women aged 40-50 suffer from RA, and the main cause of this disease has not been found so far. It was only established that inflammation induces an immune system that, due to an unknown error, attacks the body’s cells and treats them as pathogenic pathogens. It is believed that the factors that promote RA are, among others hormonal changes (which may explain the prevalence of falling ill among women), frequent injuries, long-term overloads, infections and genes.
Because RA is responsible for a series of more or less characteristic ailments, we focus on the symptoms directly related to the hand. Acquired joints ache and stiffen (morning stiffness is a typical symptom of RA), which makes it difficult for the patient to perform normal work. The progressive chronic condition is manifested by edema, as well as warming and redness of the skin above the joints.
At the initial stage of the disease, arthritis of the hands can cause a number of nuisance symptoms, such as: numbness and tingling of the fingers, sensitivity to low temperatures, the impression of “dying” hands.
Due to the chronic and progressive nature of the disease, patients must accept gradual weakening of muscle strength and fitness. The patient has difficulty with clenching a hand in a fist and catching objects, sometimes even simple activities (eg clothes) require a lot of effort.
Chronic inflammation of the hands also leads to unnatural flexion of the fingers (ulnarisation, “swan neck”, toe fingers), which not only constitutes a difficult to accept cosmetic defect, but also seriously hinders precise movements. The appearance of the hand is also aggravated by the painless rheumatoid nodules occurring above the erectile surfaces of the joints. The place occupied by inflammation can also be recognized by the changed skin, which becomes thin, damp and cool to the touch.
Treatment of RA, and thus arthritis of the hands, takes place in a long-term and using various methods. First, the symptoms of inflammation are silenced by the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and glucocorticosteroids. At the same time, disease-modifying drugs are introduced that are able to stop further joint damage and loss of fitness. In addition, the doctor may decide to include biological drugs that are most effective in suppressing the progress of RA, and at the same time do not cause such serious side effects as NSAIDs or steroids.
Since arthritis of the hands leads to a gradual loss of fitness, it is very important to stop this process with the help of rehabilitation. RA patients are referred to, among others for massages, laser therapy and iontophoresis. Kinesitherapy (or rehabilitation gymnastics) plays a special role in the treatment of the disease, thanks to which the patient partly regains grip strength and the ability to move his fingers and is also able to perform more precise activities. People with arthritis of the hands are also advised to moderate sports – only disciplines that overly stress the joints, i.e. tennis, weightlifting, volleyball and basketball, should be avoided. In addition, ask your doctor or dietitian for proper nutrition at the affected joints.