What is Arthritis and how can it be treated?

What is Arthritis and how can it be treated?

Posted on 07/05/2019

Arthritis is a health problem that is characterized by an inflammation of the joints in the body. It is the leading cause of disability in America, estimated to affect as many as 50 million adults and 300,000 children

Many people don’t realize that arthritis is not the same for everyone. In fact, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, but two of the most common as known as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Both of these can affect the hands and make it difficult to fulfil your usual tasks. Fortunately, they can also be treated, giving you relief from the discomfort associated with the condition and restoring the full use of your hands once more.


About osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the name given to the type of arthritis that occurs due to the natural degeneration of the cartilage in each joint. It is also sometimes referred to as degenerative arthritis. In this type of arthritis, the once-smooth cartilage within the joint becomes rough and harder, and this makes it difficult and painful to move the joint. As a result of the changes to the cartilage, the tendons and ligaments have to work harder, and this can cause the joint to become swollen. Bony spurs, known as osteophytes, can also form and over time, the contact of bone on bone can change the shape of the joint and force the bones out of their usual position.


Am I at risk of developing osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis can affect anyone, but there are certain people at great risk of developing the condition. This includes:

  • Women

  • People over the age of 45

  • Patients with a family history of the condition

  • People who have suffered an injury to their joint or suffer from other joint-related conditions


Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is actually the result of a problem with the patient’s immune system and occurs when their immune system targets affected joints, causing swelling and subsequent discomfort. Over time, this can damage the actual joint, the cartilage and the surrounding bone. Rheumatoid arthritis can come and go, with many patients experiencing ‘flares’ of the condition when they are particularly run down.


Am I at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis?

Just like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis can affect anyone, but there are specific factors that can increase your risk of developing the condition. These include:

  • Being aged 45 and over

  • Being female

  • Being a smoker

  • Having a family history of the condition


Treatment for arthritis

If you are experiencing arthritis in your wrists, hands, and fingers, you may find that your ability to perform even basic day to day functions such as opening jars or fastening buttons is limited. Unfortunately, while here is no cure for either type of arthritis, there are things that can be done to help you manage your condition. However, exactly what type of treatment will help you will depend on the type and severity of arthritis that you are suffering from.


Non-surgical treatments

In the first instance, your doctor will probably recommend a variety of non-invasive treatments to alleviate the symptoms of your arthritis. This may include anti-inflammatory medications, pain relief, hot/cold therapies and even physical therapy to manipulate the joints so that they can be moved more easily. If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, you may be given other medications which can help to control how your immune system reacts, thus reducing your symptoms.

Joint surgery

If non-invasive treatment options prove to be ineffective, you may be recommended for joint surgery. This involves either fusing the two affected joints together to create more stability and reduce pain or replacing the joint with an artificial alternative. There are advantages and considerations for each option, and our experienced hand surgeons will be able to talk you through both and advise you which, in their expert opinion, is most suitable for you. There are also several other hand surgery procedures which may be beneficial for you.

If you would like more information about arthritis, or to ask us any further questions that you may have, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by calling our offices today.


Please contact us today to schedule an appointment or get more information about our hand and upper extremity surgical services.