Hand and lower arm arthritis treatment

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a condition which causes pain and inflammation within the joints, including those in the wrist, hand and fingers/ thumbs. Arthritis can cause the joints to become stiff so restricting movement, as well as causing swelling and weakening of the muscles all of which can subsequently cause pain.

Arthritis of the hands can be noticeable as lumps, or bone spurs (known as osteophytes) which can form around the wrist or finger joints.

The two main types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Osteoarthritis (an age related disease) is the most common type of arthritis, which occurs when the cartilage tissue between the bones in the joint wear away, causing the bones to rub together. Rheumatoid Arthritis (an autoimmune disease) occurs when the joints are attacked by your body's own immune system, which breaks down the bone and cartilage tissue in the joints.

What does treatment involve?

Once your arthritis has been diagnosed, your Consultant will be able to administer the correct medicines and/or injections to help reduce inflammation and other symptoms. Treatment may also involve medicine aiming to slow down the condition. Your Consultant may give you a range of exercises to perform in your own time, which are intended to keep your joints as flexible and strong as possible. In severe cases, surgery may be required to treat the affected joints.

When will I recover?

If you require surgery, you will be required to wear a hand splint to support your fingers and joints as they heal. After several days of rest, you will then begin rehabilitation therapy to regain strength and mobility in your hand and fingers, which may take several months.

What risks should I know about?

Because there are different types of medicines, the side effects of and risks of treatments may vary, but your consultant should discuss these with you. Should you require surgery, you may experience some pain as the anaesthetic wears off, but this should reside over time. There is a small risk you may experience prolonged joint stiffness or pain, or dislocation of the artificial joint parts.

With time, the artificial joint parts may also become loose or fracture and this would require further surgery to repair. Vessels, nerves, and tendons in the surgical site may become damaged during the procedure.

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