If so, you may have arthritis. Arthritis is a general term that refers to joint pain. There are actually more than 100 different types of arthritis. While arthritis can strike people of any age or gender, it is more prevalent in women and the elderly.1
Although arthritis can involve any joint, the hands are often affected. Because early treatment can prevent the disease from worsening, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the most common signs of arthritis in the hands.
5 Common Signs of Arthritis in the Hands
Swelling, Stiffness, or Warmth
Joint swelling is a sign of rheumatoid arthritis, an uncommon form of arthritis in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the joints. As the white blood cells enter the joint, the area begins to swell and will often feel warm. This typically occurs in the joints of the fingers, creating a feeling of discomfort.
Joints that are inflamed are also prone to stiffness, particularly in the morning or when resting. If the stiffness lasts for more than an hour, rheumatoid arthritis may be the culprit.
Pain or Difficulty Gripping
Another common symptom of arthritis is pain or difficulty when gripping that can be more intense during rainy weather. The pain often occurs when people are engaged in relatively common activities like getting dressed, brushing their hair, opening a jar, or lifting something.
The sensation is often described as a dull or burning feeling. It doesn’t always show up immediately. Sometimes it might be hours before someone experiences discomfort.
Misshapen Finger Joints
With the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, protective cartilage wears away in the joints causing bones to rub together. Oftentimes, this leads to the growth of bone deposits or spurs, which give joints a misshapen appearance and can interfere with hand function. These spurs look like hard lumps under the skin. They may or may not cause pain. If you have such lumps, mention them to your physician, particularly if you are experiencing discomfort or problems with mobility.
When arthritis affects the joints at the end of the fingers, sometimes small cysts develop. These cysts can also cause ridging or dents in the nailbeds of the affected fingers. While these lumps are benign, they can be present for months—and even years—and will often increase or decrease in size.
Grinding or Crunching
Lastly, hand arthritis can be accompanied by a grating or grinding feeling. Some arthritis sufferers hear a crunchy sound (called crepitus) when moving the joints of their fingers. This occurs when damaged cartilage surfaces rub against each other.
If you have any signs of arthritis in your hands, you should consult with your physician to determine if you have arthritis. Early detection can prevent these symptoms from worsening, and there are a number of effective medications your doctor can prescribe that may reduce pain and increase your hands’ mobility.