More than 32.5 million Americans have osteoarthritis (OA). It’s the most common form of arthritis, and it develops as the joints in your body start deteriorating from years of use.
As you age, the cartilage that cushions your joints wears down. The bones start rubbing against each other, causing symptoms like swelling, stiffness, and pain. Your age, weight, and activity level all affect your risk of OA, and it can develop in almost any joint.
Unfortunately, your hands are particularly susceptible. Hand arthritis can make daily tasks painful and challenging, but treatment can make a difference. As a hand surgery specialist in Fort Worth, Texas, Walter D. Gracia, MD, PA, can help.
Here are some tips for dealing with arthritis in your hands and when to consider seeing a surgeon for advanced care.
Identifying hand arthritis
Each of your hands has about 27 joints. OA can affect any joint in your hand or wrist, but some are more common than others. OA often develops in your wrist, the joint at the base of your thumb, and/or the joints in the middle and top of your other fingers.
OA makes joints swollen and painful. As joint deterioration progresses, you may find that your range of motion is restricted. Severe hand arthritis can make small movements, like buttoning your shirt or tying your shoes, difficult or even impossible.
Conservative care for hand arthritis
There’s no cure for arthritis, but early intervention can help slow joint deterioration and minimize your symptoms. Most OA treatment plans start with conservative, nonsurgical care.
Wearing a splint or a brace can take the excessive strain off painful joints to help relieve OA symptoms. If you notice swelling or pain, hot or cold therapy can help manage inflammation.
Increasing your activity level or participating in physical therapy helps build strength in critical joints. Targeted stretches and movement can also help fight stiffness and loss of function, making those daily tasks easier.
For many people, medication plays a role in OA management. Oral, topical, and injectable medications can reduce inflammation and pain so that you can live more comfortably.
You have lots of conservative OA treatment options to choose from. The best treatments for you depend on your age, overall health, and the severity of your arthritis.
When to consider surgery for hand arthritis
A combination of conservative treatments can effectively reduce OA pain and stiffness, but it isn’t enough for everyone. If you’ve exhausted conservative arthritis treatment and still have significant pain, it might be time to consider hand surgery.
The goal of surgery is to remove damaged parts of your joint and reinforce them to reduce your symptoms. Dr. Gracia specializes in hand procedures, and he can help you decide if you’re a good candidate for hand arthritis surgery.
In surgery, Dr. Gracia and our team carefully removed damaged cartilage and bone growth around joints. Then, we either fuse bones or do a total joint replacement. Hand joint replacement may use ceramic, metal, or plastic implants.
Hand arthritis is common and can seriously limit your quality of life. The good news is that treatment is available. To find out if you’re a candidate for surgery, book a consultation with Dr. Gracia and our team. Call 817-336-9450 or request an appointment online today.