Finger Joint Arthritis

What is Finger Joint Arthritis ?

Osteoarthritis refers to a process, usually age-related, of degradation and degeneration of the cartilage lining a joint, and subsequent changes in the bone adjacent to that joint.

Osteoarthritis in the hand tends to affect the middle (“proximal interphalangeal or PIP”) and terminal (distal interphalangeal or DIP) joints of the fingers, as well as the joint at the base of the thumb (see thumb base arthritis page).

finger arthritis

What causes Finger Joint Arthritis ?

In most cases the changes seen are related to ageing and the cumulative effects of the use of the finger joints. Individuals can possess a genetic pre-disposition to developing osteoarthritis, and in some cases the changes can be secondary to a previous injury, or longstanding joint disease such as rheumatoid arthritis.

What are the symptoms?

The principal symptoms are of pain, stiffness of the joint and loss of function. The degree of functional loss will depend on the joint involved and the severity of that involvement. The diagnosis can usually be easily made with a combination of clinical examination and standard x-rays.

How is Finger Joint Arthritis treated?

Treatment of this condition usually progresses from less invasive to more invasive techniques, depending on the level of symptoms and the response of those symptoms to treatment:

  • The use of anti-inflammatory and painkilling medication, specific aids to daily living and activity modification.
  • Ultrasound guided injection of a steroid into the relevant joint or joints. This technique usually yields a temporary improvement in symptoms, for up to 6 months.
  • Surgical Fusion of the joint. This technique sacrifices the movement within the joint for pain relief and is usually effective in reducing levels of pain. It is particularly common for DIP joint arthritis. It is more well-tolerated in the index and middle fingers than in the ring or little fingers.
  • Replacement of the PIP joints. This can be accomplished with either a silicone replacement or one made of metal and plastic, rather like a mini-knee replacement.

The pros and cons of the different treatment options would, of course, be discussed with you by your surgeon.

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