What Is Finger Arthritis? (2023)

Our fingers are important! We use them constantly, all day long: to brush our teeth, to send emails, to cook our meals. When arthritis affects the fingers, everyday tasks become difficult and painful. So what can we do when our finger joints begin to cause problems?

This article provides more information about arthritis in the fingers, what causes it, and what you can do to help keep your fingers moving.

Types of Finger Arthritis

There are threetypes of arthritis that commonly affect the fingers:

  • Osteoarthritis:Osteoarthritis, also called wear-and-tear arthritis, is the most common type of finger arthritis. Osteoarthritis causes normal cartilage to wear away. This exposes bare bone at the joints. The most frequently affected joints in the hand are the knuckles of the mid-finger and fingertip (the PIP and DIP joints) and the joint at the base of the thumb.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis:Rheumatoid arthritis causes a different type of joint destruction. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that affects the whole body.It causes the immune system to attack the soft tissues surrounding the joints. The most commonly affected joints in the hand are the knuckles at the base of the fingers (the MCP joints).
  • Gout: Gout is a condition that occurs when crystals develop within the joints. These crystals can form in one or more joints when there is too much of a substance called uric acid in the body. While the big toe is the most commonly affected part of the body, gout can also develop in finger joints.

Rarely, other types of arthritis can also cause problems in the fingers.

Finger Arthritis Symptoms

Symptoms of finger arthritis include:

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Loss of motion

Osteoarthritis often also causes lumps or nodules around the knuckles of the fingers. These lumps are called Heberden's nodes when they are around the knuckle closest to the fingertip, or Bouchard's nodes when they are around the middle knuckle.

These lumps are actually bone spurs around the joints. They can make the knuckles enlarged, swollen, and stiff. People who have enlarged joints due to osteoarthritis often complain that their rings do not fit or can't be removed.

Rheumatoid arthritis often causes similar symptoms. However, rheumatoid arthritis can actually cause deformities in the hands. Inflammation in the joints can cause finger joints to become crooked and bend away from the thumb.

Causes

A joint is the part of your body where two bones come together. Bones are cushioned by cartilage, which allows smooth movement between the adjoining bones. When the cartilage is damaged, arthritis develops.

When our fingers can't bend and move normally, our daily activities become difficult.

Treatment

Treatment of finger arthritis depends on the underlying cause. The treatment focuses on managing the symptoms and maintaining and improving function.

Treatment options include:

  • Anti-Inflammatory medications: These medications are often recommended for treating the pain of finger arthritis, and they help decrease inflammation and swelling around the joints. You should always check with your healthcare provider before starting any new medication, even over-the-counter medications.
  • Joint supplements: Joint supplements consist of glucosamine and chondroitin, two of the major building blocks of normal cartilage. These supplements are very safe to use. Although the clinical data to support their use is weak, many people say they find them helpful.
  • Cortisone injections: Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory steroid medication, and it can be useful in limited applications in the hand. While it's not good to have frequent cortisone injections, an occasional shot may help calm a flare of arthritis.
  • Hand therapy: Hand therapy, usually performed by an occupational therapist, is helpful to maintain motion and prevent stiffening of the joints.
  • Ice and heat treatment: Joint stiffness and range of motion can be improved by ice and heat treatments. Most people with finger arthritis find that warming the hands with a warm washcloth or in moderately hot water is helpful for relieving the stiffness of arthritic fingers.
  • Splints: Splinting helps to relax and rest the joints. Splinting should be done for limited periods of time to allow for relief without allowing the joint to stiffen.

Surgery

If non-surgical treatments don't relieve your symptoms, surgery may be necessary. Several different procedures can be done, depending on the joint that's involved and the effects of your arthritis. Your healthcare provider may recommend removing bone spurs, or even fusing or replacing the joint.

Joint Fusion

The most common surgery that's done for treatment of finger arthritis is a finger joint fusion. This procedure is done to hold the knuckle in a fixed position to prevent movement of the joint. The joint becomes stiff forever, which limits your range of motion, and the pain is usually alleviated.During this procedure, your healthcare provider can also straighten deformities and remove bone spurs.

Joint Replacement

(Video) Arthritis Of The Fingers - Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim

Finger joint replacement can be a very effective procedure for some people. An artificial finger joint can maintain mobility of the joint without the pain of arthritis. Deformities and bone spurs can also be treated during this surgical procedure.

In general, finger joint replacement is only considered for more sedentary or elderly individuals, because the artificial joints are not designed for strenuous activity or heavy labor. The implants, which may be made of metal, plastic, ceramic, or a combination of materials, can wear out over time and need to be protected from too much activity.

Summary

Finger arthritis can be painful and may limit your daily activities. If you are experiencing joint pain, stiffness, or swelling in your hands, talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns. They can help determine whether arthritis is to blame and help you manage your symptoms so they don't get worse.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can you tell if you have arthritis in your fingers?

    Your doctor can diagnose arthritis by examining your hand and taking X-rays. Blood tests may also be ordered to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis.

    Learn More:How Arthritis Is Diagnosed

  • How can you prevent arthritis in your finger joints?

    You may not be able to prevent arthritis, but there are things you can do that may decrease your risk. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce stress on your joints. Avoiding smoking can also decrease your risk.

    (Video) 3 Tips to Decrease Finger Arthritis Pain

  • What are the first signs of arthritis in your fingers?

    Early symptoms of arthritis can include dull or burning joint pain in your fingers. Pain and stiffness may be worse in the morning.

14 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Haugen IK. Hand osteoarthritis: current knowledge and new ideas.Scand J Rheumatol. 2016;45(sup128):58-63. doi:10.1080/03009742.2016.1203021

  2. Lin YJ, Anzaghe M, Schülke S. Update on the pathomechanism, diagnosis, and treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis.Cells. 2020;9(4):880. doi:10.3390/cells9040880

    (Video) Osteoarthritis Of The Fingers Heberden's Nodes - Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim

  3. Clebak KT, Morrison A, Croad JR. Gout: Rapid evidence review.Am Fam Physician. 2020;102(9):533-538.

  4. Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis and diseases that affect the hand and wrist.

  5. Araki K, Oiwa H. Acute arthritis of the fingers in an elderly woman. Intern Med. 2017;56(23):3267-3268. doi:10.2169/internalmedicine.9284-17

  6. Hurnakova J, Filippucci E, Cipolletta E, et al. Prevalence and distribution of cartilage damage at the metacarpal head level in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis: an ultrasound study. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2019;58(7):1206-1213. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/key443

  7. Van laar M, Pergolizzi JV, Mellinghoff HU, et al. Pain treatment in arthritis-related pain: beyond NSAIDs. Open Rheumatol J. 2012;6:320-30. doi:10.2174/1874312901206010320

  8. Jerosch J. Effects of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate on cartilage metabolism in OA: Outlook on other nutrient partners especially omega-3 fatty acids. Int J Rheumatol. 2011;2011:969012. doi:10.1155/2011/969012

  9. Spies CK, Langer M, Hahn P, Müller LP, Unglaub F. The treatment of primary arthritis of the finger and thumb joint. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2018;115(16):269-275. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2018.0269

  10. Kjeken I, Eide RE, Klokkeide Å, et al. Does occupational therapy reduce the need for surgery in carpometacarpal osteoarthritis? Protocol for a randomized controlled trial. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2016;17(1):473. doi:10.1186/s12891-016-1321-3

  11. Arthritis Foundation. Heat therapy helps relax stiff joints.

  12. Porter BJ, Brittain A. Splinting and hand exercise for three common hand deformities in rheumatoid arthritis: a clinical perspective. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2012;24(2):215-21. doi:10.1097/BOR.0b013e3283503361

  13. Murray PM, Linscheid RL, Cooney WP, Baker V, Heckman MG. Long-term outcomes of proximal interphalangeal joint surface replacement arthroplasty. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2012;94(12):1120-8. doi:10.2106/JBJS.J.01375

  14. Cleveland Clinic. Arthritis of the hand.

What Is Finger Arthritis? (1)

By Jonathan Cluett, MD
Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.

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(Video) The Pain, Swelling And Stiffness of Rheumatoid Arthritis

FAQs

What causes fingers arthritis? ›

Injury: Repetitive activities and acute injuries can cause joint damage and lead to arthritis. Smoking: People who smoke have a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Infection: Certain infections may cause joint damage and lead to arthritis. Age: Older adults are at higher risk of developing arthritis.

How is finger arthritis treated? ›

Treatment options include splinting/bracing, medications, injections, non-drug approaches and surgery. Splits or braces support and protect the affected joint, reduce deformity, provide joint stability, lessen strain, and promote proper joint alignment.

Can arthritis in fingers be fixed? ›

Yet surgery to repair the damage from hand arthritis is relatively rare. One reason is that finger surgery has a high complication and failure rate. It can also sacrifice mobility for pain relief. The two main surgical options for hand arthritis are fusion (arthrodesis) and total knuckle replacement (arthroplasty).

How do I know if my finger has arthritis? ›

Finger Arthritis Symptoms

Osteoarthritis often also causes lumps or nodules around the knuckles of the fingers. These lumps are called Heberden's nodes when they are around the knuckle closest to the fingertip, or Bouchard's nodes when they are around the middle knuckle.

Can arthritis affect just one finger? ›

Osteoarthritis can affect just one joint, such as the joint at the base of the thumb. See What Is Osteoarthritis? Hand osteoarthritis can affect just one joint, such as the joint at the base of the thumb, or several joints in the fingers, wrist, and thumb.

What vitamin helps arthritis in fingers? ›

Vitamins D and K are both important for bone strength, and vitamin K is involved in cartilage structure. Supplementing these two nutrients may be helpful if you're deficient in them.

How do you stop arthritis from progressing? ›

Slowing Osteoarthritis Progression
  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight. Excess weight puts additional pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. ...
  2. Control Blood Sugar. ...
  3. Get Physical. ...
  4. Protect Joints. ...
  5. Choose a Healthy Lifestyle.

What age does arthritis start in fingers? ›

Osteoarthritis can affect anyone at any age, but it's more common in women over the age of 50. Some of the factors that can make you more likely to develop osteoarthritis in your hands include: being female. the genes you inherit.

What does finger arthritis feel like? ›

Pain. Early symptoms of arthritis of the hand include joint pain that may feel "dull," or a "burning" sensation. The pain often occurs after periods of increased joint use, such as heavy gripping or grasping. The pain may not be present immediately, but may show up hours later or even the following day.

How fast does arthritis progress in fingers? ›

Experts confirm that once OA starts, it may take years to reach a severe stage. However, in extreme cases, OA progresses rapidly to complete the destruction of the cartilage within a few months. Some of the factors that determine the rate of OA progression include: The severity of your symptoms at the time of diagnosis.

How do you stop arthritis from getting worse in your fingers? ›

Moving your hands and fingers can help keep your ligaments and tendons flexible and increase the function of synovial fluid. Try regular hand exercises to strengthen muscles and relieve stiffness and pain. Simple exercises like flexing and bending, finger touching, and finger sliding may help keep your fingers limber.

What is a natural remedy for arthritis in the fingers? ›

Hot and cold therapy

Apply a warm pack to stiff or painful joints or place the hands in a tub of water that is warm but not too hot. Some products for hot and cold therapy are available for purchase online, including hot and cold packs. Paraffin wax treatments may help ease stiffness and pain.

Can arthritis be seen on xray? ›

Conventional radiographs – Routine X-ray examinations

Specifically, an X-ray of a joint with osteoarthritis will show a narrowing of the space between the bones of the joint where the cartilage has worn away, as shown in the image below. Anteroposterior (front to back) X-ray image of the knee showing osteoarthritis.

How do you test for arthritis? ›

What imaging techniques may be used to diagnose arthritis?
  1. X-ray. X-rays may show joint changes and bone damage found in some types of arthritis. ...
  2. Ultrasound. Ultrasound uses sound waves (not radiation) to see the quality of synovial tissue, tendons, ligaments, and bones.
  3. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). ...
  4. Arthroscopy.

Is heat or cold better for arthritis? ›

Both heat and cold therapy may help ease symptoms of arthritis. Heat may help relieve aches and stiffness, while cold therapy may help ease swelling and pain. Applying heat or cold to affected parts of the body may help relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of arthritis.

What are 5 symptoms of arthritis? ›

Symptoms
  • Pain.
  • Stiffness.
  • Swelling.
  • Redness.
  • Decreased range of motion.
15 Sept 2021

What age does arthritis start in hands? ›

Osteoarthritis can affect anyone at any age, but it's more common in women over the age of 50. Some of the factors that can make you more likely to develop osteoarthritis in your hands include: being female. the genes you inherit.

What are the first signs of arthritis in your hands? ›

Pain in the hands and fingers. Swelling in your hand/wrist joints. Stiffness in your joints and hands. Weakness in your hands.

What foods should I avoid with arthritis in my fingers? ›

Here are eight foods known to contribute to inflammation and the aggravation of your arthritis symptoms.
  • Sweets. Consuming too much sugar increases inflammation in your body. ...
  • Dairy. ...
  • Fatty foods. ...
  • Carbohydrates. ...
  • Tobacco and alcohol. ...
  • Advanced glycation end (AGE) products. ...
  • Gluten. ...
  • Additives.

What is the test for arthritis? ›

Your doctor may recommend X-rays to help track the progression of rheumatoid arthritis in your joints over time. MRI and ultrasound tests can help your doctor judge the severity of the disease in your body.

Is hand arthritis a disability? ›

Many people may wonder is arthritis a disability. Yes. Arthritis can prompt incapacity, as can numerous other mental and physical conditions. If your arthritis confines your daily movements, or activities you may qualify for disability benefits.

At what age does arthritis usually start? ›

It most commonly starts among people between the ages of 40 and 60. It's more common in women than men. There are drugs that can slow down an over-active immune system and therefore reduce the pain and swelling in joints. These are called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and include biological therapies.

What type of arthritis affects the fingers? ›

Rheumatoid Arthritis

The result can be joint pain, swelling, inflammation and loss of function. RA commonly affects the wrist and finger joints.

What should you not drink with arthritis? ›

In general, avoid soda since it can be full of sugar, aspartame and phosphoric acid. The latter can negatively affect your body's ability to absorb calcium. Water can get a bit boring, but there are other ways to stay healthy and hydrated.

Is banana good for arthritis? ›

Bananas and Plantains are high in magnesium and potassium that can increase bone density. Magnesium may also alleviate arthritis symptoms.

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