Los Angeles Hand Surgeon

About us
Our Services
Contact us
Learn More
Animal and Human Bites
Arthritis at Base of Thumb
Brachial Plexus Injury
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Congenital Hand Differences
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
De Quervain's Tendonitis
Dupuytren's Disease
Extensor Tendon Injuries
Fireworks Accident
Flexor Tendon Injuries
Ganglion Cysts
Hand Fractures
Hand Infections
Kienböck's Disease
Nail Bed Injuries
Nerve Injuries of the Hand
Osteoarthritis of the Hand
Prosthetics and Amputation
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Scaphoid Fractures
Scaphoid Non-Union
Tendon Transfer Surgery
Tennis Elbow
Thumb Sprains
Trigger Finger
Vascular Disorders
Wrist Arthroscopy
Wrist Fractures
Wrist Sprains

Diagnosis Model
Hand Diagnosis Model


Call our offices at:
(310) 274-3481
(800) 964-0404

Beverly Hills
9301 Wilshire Boulevard
Suite 406A
Beverly Hills, California 90210

We accept most types of insurance providers and specialize in the treatment of workers' compensation injuries to the hand and upper extremity.

Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Hand

Explanation of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Signs & Symptoms in the Hand
Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Non-Surgical & Surgical Treatments

Arthritis in the hand is usually one of three types: osteoarthritis; post-traumatic arthritis (which shows up after some injury); or rheumatoid arthritis. All three types take their root from arthritis, which literally means "inflamed joint." The body's joints, including those in the hand, wrist, and fingers, are all composed of two bones that meet with smooth surfaces covered with cartilage that enables them to move smoothly against each other as a matching set. When the smooth surfaces no longer fit together well, become uneven, or simply wear out from use, the joint is called arthritic. Although arthritis can show up in any joint, when it develops in the hand or fingers, it's more obvious because these joints are used so much. There are nineteen major bones in the hand, along with eight small ones and the two forearm bones that make up the wrist, so there are many joints where arthritis can present.

Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Hand

While osteoarthritis, post-traumatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common, arthritis in the hand can also come from gout, psoriasis, or infection.

Back to the Top

Explanation of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that impacts the cells that lubricate the joint and make up the lining, the synoval tissue. This condition can affect the whole body or many of its joints, usually all over the body. The synovium, or joint lining, gets inflamed and swells when rheumatoid arthritis is present, and this leads to the cartilage and bone eroding. If the swollen tissue stretches the ligaments, which hold the bones that surround the joint together, the joint may become unstable or cause a deformity. The inflammation can even influence the tendons, which are like ropes that tie the bones to the muscle, and cause them to stretch out and rupture.

Although rheumatoid arthritis can show up anywhere, with respect to the hand, it most often shows up in the wrist or the middle or end knuckles of the fingers.

Back to the Top

Signs & Symptoms in the Hand
No matter the type of arthritis, the joint affected will usually be stiff, swollen, and cause pain when used. If rheumatoid arthritis is present, some joints may have more swelling than others, and often the finger will look like a sausage in what's called fusiform. Other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include:

  • A soft lump on the back of the hand that moves with the tendon when the fingers are straightened

  • Crepitus, or a creaking sound when the joint is used

  • The fingers may begin edging away from the thumb

  • The tendons that bend the fingers may become swollen and can cause the fingers to be numb or tingle, and when they're used there may be a clicking when the finger bends

  • If the tendons are ruptured, it may be impossible to straighten some fingers or the thumb

  • Wrist, finger, or thumb joints may be unstable

  • In Boutonnière deformity, the middle joint of the finger is bent and the end joint hyperextends

  • The middle joint in a finger may show sway-back, or hyperextension, in a finger with a bent fingertip in what's called a swan-neck deformity

    Back to the Top

    Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis
    The joints that are suspect will be compared by the surgeon to see if they have common symptoms. Hands and fingers will be examined clinically to help determine which type of arthritis is present. Rheumatoid arthritis will show certain features which can be seen in x-rays, including a narrowing of the space inside the joint, swelling and less dense bone near the joint, and bone erosion. If rheumatoid arthritis is suspected, blood or other lab tests may be requested.

    Back to the Top

    Non-Surgical & Surgical Treatments
    The goal of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is to relieve pain and get back as much use as possible. Medication can help with the pain and inflammation if rheumatoid arthritis is in the hand, and can even slow down the growth of the disease. Treatment often includes anti-inflammatory medication and oral steroid medication, sometimes with injections of steroids.

    New treatments to modify the disease have become available, including the use of anti-malarial drugs cyclosporine, methotrexate, gold, and other new drugs such as remicade or enbrel that work to suppress the natural immune system to lessen the inflammation and reduce the pain. These and other medications can be prescribed by a rheumatologist, who will monitor their use.

    A hand therapist may also be recommended, who can help with exercises and splints and also with paraffin or warm wax treatments. Therapists can offer suggestions and instructions for different ways to use both the hand and fingers that can protect the joints while relieving the pain and pressure. They may also help with using devices designed to facilitate the performance normal, everyday tasks.

    Tendons, as well as joints, can be affected by rheumatoid arthritis, and ones that get inflamed can click or rupture. The fingers may be stiff and unable to be bent or straightened if this happens, so the ability to grab or hold items may be reduced. Preventive surgery may be suggested to treat some cases and in an effort to remove nodules. To treat the tendons, preventive surgery may be done to remove either the rough bone or the inflamed tissue that can scrape or press on them, or the tendons, themselves, may be reinforced. If the tendon has ruptured, a hand surgeon may repair it or perform a graft or tendon transfer in addition to any of the other treatments.

    If surgery is used to treat arthritic joints, it most often is done to remove the linings of the joints that are inflamed, to replace or fuse the joints, or remove bone that has become damaged or dead. The particular course of treatment depends on a number of things, including which joints need treatment, how much damage they show, the condition of nearby joints as well as the amount and nature of any loss of hand or finger use. The risks and benefits of any surgery will be made clear before any decision on a course of action is taken.

    There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but some deformities can be corrected through surgery. Surgery can also help with pain relief and the return of use of the hand or fingers. The best treatment comes from a combined effort between the patient and his or her hand therapist, rheumatologist, and doctor. If surgery is called for, it needs to be scheduled to take place before more severe deformities develop and when the joints can be kept for as long as possible.

    Back to the Top

    Copyright © 2017 LA Hand Surgeon, Avosant Surgical Associates. All rights reserved.
    Terms & Conditions. Privacy Statement. Sitemap. Blog.
    Website design and optimization provided by Hotweazel.com

    We serve the following cities within Los Angeles, which are in close proximity to our offices:
    Agoura Hills, Brentwood, Canoga Park, Century City, Chatsworth, Culver City, Glendale, Granada Hills, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Marina Del Rey, North Hollywood, Northridge, Rancho Park, Reseda, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Tarzana, Valencia, Van Nuys, West Hills, West Hollywood, West L.A., Winnetka, Woodland Hills