Do your fingers hurt when you try to open a jar? Hand osteoarthritis could be to blame. If you have this condition, pain and stiffness in your joints can make some basic tasks a whole lot harder. There’s no cure, but there are a lot of ways to protect your joints and ease your pain.
Osteoarthritis (OA) happens from wear and tear on your joints. On the ends of your bones, there’s a layer of smooth material called cartilage. It helps cushion the joints and allows them to slide easily. But over time, the cartilage gets worn down. The bones begin to rub against each other, causing the symptoms of hand OA.
Other things can increase your chances of OA in your hands, too. You’re more likely to get it if you’re:
- Older. The older you are, the more likely it is.
- A woman. Compared to men, women are twice as likely to get it.
- White. Rates are lower in African-Americans.
- Overweight. Thinner people are less likely to get it than obese people.
Injuries, like broken bones or dislocations, can also raise the chances of OA, even if you got treatment for them. So can joint infections. And your genes play a role too, since OA can run in families.
Symptoms: The most common ones are pain and stiffness, which may be worse in the morning. You could also notice that your joint hurts after you use it a lot but feels better when you rest it.
Over time, the symptoms may get worse. The pain may become constant and sharper, and the stiffness can get bad enough that you can’t bend your finger joints all the way.
Diagnosis: The doctor will look at your hands and ask you questions about your symptoms and family history. You’ll probably get X-rays, too.
The doctor will also rule out other causes of painful joints, like rheumatoid arthritis.