Diagnosis of hand arthritis

Arthritis in the hand affects people differently, and no one person is the same. This is why it is so helpful to see a specialist hand doctor for help and advice, as they will make sure that any treatment is just right for you and your needs. 

When you first meet with your consultant at Circle, they will talk with you about the problems you are experiencing in your hand and how your life is being impacted on a daily basis. It is important that you tell them about any tasks or activities that you are finding more difficult to do as a result of the arthritis, as the more your doctor knows about your symptoms and challenges, the better.

Your doctor may arrange for you to have one of a number of diagnostic tests to help confirm a diagnosis of arthritis and outline treatment options. All these tests can easily be carried out at your Circle hospital and may include:

  • Blood test: Certain types of blood tests can be helpful in showing possible indications of some forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

  • X-ray: Where arthritis is suspected in the hand, your doctor will usually arrange for you to have an X-ray of your hand and wrist as this can show signs of arthritis in the joints.

  • CT scan: Standing for ‘computerised tomography’, a CT scanner uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to generate a detailed view of your hand and wrist from multiple angles. A CT scan is good at showing subtle signs of arthritis that may be missed on a standard X-ray. It can also be helpful when planning hand or wrist surgery.

  • MRI scan: Standing for ‘magnetic resonance imaging’, an MRI scanner uses strong magnets rather than ionising radiation. This type of scan is particularly good for showing damage to the tendons or muscles in the hand and wrist.

  • Ultrasound scan: Also known as a ‘sonogram’, this uses high-frequency sound waves to generate an image of your hand and wrist. As ultrasound scan is very good at showing soft tissue; this can be useful if, for example, your doctor suspects an arthritic joint in your hand or wrist is producing a lot of fluid. Ultrasound is also often used when positioning a needle for a corticosteroid injection to relieve arthritic pain in the hand or wrist.

Not all of these diagnostic tests will be needed for every person. Often, a physical examination and an X-ray of the hand will be all that is needed to confirm a diagnosis of hand arthritis. Your consultant will talk with you about any tests needed and explain why there are being done. 

Treatment options for hand arthritis

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Circle Health Group, 1st Floor, 30 Cannon Street, London, EC4M 6XH