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Finger deformities develop with chronic arthritis.
Arthritis causes progressive degeneration of joints in the hand, significantly impacting functional abilities and quality of life. Finger joints become painful and swollen. Over time, permanent deformities develop. Three main types of arthritis affect the hand: rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Although the disease process differs, all three types of arthritis are potentially debilitating.
Osteoarthritis is the most common musculoskeletal disease in developed countries. It typically affects adults who are middle-aged and older. Women are affected more frequently than men, and 13 to 26 percent of the population is estimated to have symptomatic osteoarthritis in the hand, according to an article in the journal Article Research & Therapy. Rheumatoid arthritis affects 1 percent of the population in the United States, and approximately 70 percent of people with this disease have symptoms in their hands, explains an article made available by the National Institutes of Health public access program. According to a report made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, psoriatic arthritis affects 1 to 3 percent of the population in the United States. It most commonly develops from age 30 to 50, affecting both men and women equally.
Osteoarthritis affects one or more joints in the body, often developing in the joints of the fingers and the base of the thumb, causing cartilage breakdown. Over time, this diminished padding between the bones enables the affected joints to move out of alignment, causing pain and permanent deformities. Osteoarthritis can affect one finger joint or multiple joints in the hand. It is diagnosed by x-ray and clinical examination, with ultrasonography and magnetic resonance imaging used to evaluate the extent of joint damage. Treatment includes anti-inflammatory medications, heat and cold for pain relief, splinting to correct joint position and gentle exercise to maintain range of motion and strength.
Rheumatoid arthritis, a disease of the immune system, affects all the joints in the body. The cause is unknown. This condition causes joint destruction and inflammation in the hand as it attacks the fluid that lubricates the joints and the supporting ligaments. With time, rheumatoid arthritis causes severe hand deformities that significantly impact function. Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed with blood work that tests for certain antibodies called rheumatic factors, in combination with clinical examination and x-rays. It is treated with medications to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as medications that slow the progression of the disease. Heat and cold applications, gentle exercise and splinting are also used to reduce pain and preserve motion and function.
Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects the joints in the hand and is often accompanied by patches of dry, red skin. Fingers develop dactylitis, swelling up like sausages as all the structures in the fingers become inflamed. As a result, hand function is significantly impacted. Psoriatic arthritis is diagnosed using blood tests that detect specific genetic markers and inflammation levels, in combination with magnetic resonance imaging and clinical examination, using criteria in the Classification of Psoriatic Arthritis System. Because this condition can cause bone damage, bone scans are often performed to determine a person's level of risk of bone injury. Psoriatic arthritis is treated with anti-inflammatory medications in addition to medications that slow the disease process.