|Relieving the Pain of Arthritis in the Hands|
"Arthritis in the hands develops when the cartilage that cushions the joints is lost because of overuse, damage, trauma or genetics," says Marc Tanner, MD, Hand Surgeon at Piedmont Orthopaedic Associates. "When the cushion of cartilage is lost, the bones in the joint rub against each other, causing areas of inflammation. This can cause stiffness, swelling, stretching of the joint covering and, most of all, pain." If left untreated, the bones in the joint can even become distorted, further limiting motion and causing more pain.
If the joints in your hands are becoming increasingly painful or swelling, it may be time to see a doctor to discuss your best options. "Increasingly, doctors are finding ways to preserve the damaged joint," says Dr. Tanner. "But to do this, it's essential to get an early diagnosis so that there is a good chance of repair before the entire surface of the joint becomes damaged."
"The pain and swelling of arthritis can be managed with anti-inflammatory medication or with anesthetic or steroid injections, but no medication can replace the lost cartilage," says Timothy R. Brown, MD, Hand Surgeon at The Hand Center. If the symptoms reach a point where they are no longer manageable, it's time to discuss surgery.
A procedure called carpometacarpal arthroplasty (CMC arthroplasty) is often used to treat arthritis at the base of the thumb near the wrist - one of the most common places in the hand that develops arthritis. "CMC arthroplasty is one of the procedures we do the most of due to its effectiveness and the number of people who have arthritis in that area," Dr. Tanner says.
Other surgical options include joint replacement or joint fusion. Both surgeries remove the problematic arthritis, but joint replacement allows for movement of the joint while joint fusion fuses the bones of the joint together.
"Minimally invasive arthroscopy of the small joints of the hand and wrist is now possible because the equipment has been made much smaller," Dr. Brown says.
The Bon Secours Medical Group has hand specialists available at both The Hand Center and Piedmont Orthopaedic Associates. Visit www.mybsmg.com to find a hand surgeon near you.