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Forty percent of people will be affected by symptomatic hand osteoarthritis

picture of a hand over grassAccording to a recent study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, forty percent of people will be affected by symptomatic osteoarthritis in at least one hand.

The study was conducted by the Arthritis Program at the U.S. Renters for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Lead researcher Jin Qin, Sc.D, and his team looked at 1999 to 2010 data on 2,218 individuals from North Carolina, ages 45 or older. Data collected include participant reported symptoms and hand X-rays.

The study found that women were at higher risk than men – half of the women in the study (47.2 percent) developed hand arthritis, while a quarter of men in the study (24.6 percent) had hand arthritis. Participants who were Caucasian (white) were more prone to hand arthritis than African-Americans (black), at a rate of 41.4 percent compared to 29.2 percent. The researchers said excess weight was also a risk factor for hand arthritis. The lifetime risk for hand arthritis among obese people was 47.1 percent. For non-obese people, the rate was 36.1 percent.

The authors concluded: “These findings demonstrate the substantial burden of symptomatic hand osteoarthritis overall and in subgroups. Increased use of public health and clinical interventions is needed to address its impact.”

About hand arthritis

Hand arthritis can be caused be osteoarthritis or the wearing and tearing of the joints in your hands that happens over time. When your hands are affected, the cartilage between your joints wear down and causes your bones to rub together without a cushion. This rubbing motion causes inflammation, stiffness and pain.

The symptoms of hand arthritis include:

  • an ache when you use your hands
  • joint stiffness that may be more pronounced in the morning
  • difficulty moving your fingers
  • weak grip
  • swelling and tenderness in the knuckles or around the wrist

To determine if you have hand arthritis, your doctor will either order an X-ray to look for cartilage loss or an MRI to look at your bones and soft tissue. Your doctor may also order blood tests or conduct a joint fluid analysis to check for signs of inflammation in the hand joints.

hand exercise graphHow do you treat hand arthritis?

  • prescribed and over-the-counter medications (please speak to your doctor about available medication treatments)
  • do hand exercises, such as creating a fist with your hands, touching your fingertips against each other, walking your fingers up a wall and then back down or bending your knuckles as if you were making a claw with your hands (do them several times a day)
  • wear splints to support your wrist, thumb or fingers
  • use hot or cold packs to alleviate swelling and pain
  • use modified tools for everyday activities
  • adjusting your diet (speak to a dietician or your doctor about food that may help control inflammation)
  • surgery