How Is Arthritis in the Hands Diagnosed?

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Doctors diagnose arthritis of the hand, or hand osteoarthritis, through a physical exam, assessment of the patient’s medical history and radiological studies, according to WebMD. X-rays of the bones of the hand may reveal changes in the bones or the presence of bone spurs, while bone scans may allow doctors to detect osteoarthritis changes earlier than X-ray studies.

The symptoms of osteoarthritis include warmth, swelling, loss of motion and obvious deformities, explains WebMD. Other symptoms include a grating, crunching or grinding sound with movement of the affected joints, pain, stiffness and altered range of motion in the hand. The formation of mucus cysts near the ends of the finger may occur, and affected people may have trouble pinching or gripping things, turning keys or opening lids.

In the hand, osteoarthritis occurs most frequently in the either the joint at the thumb’s base where the wrist and thumb meet, in the joint closest to the nail at the end of the fingers, or in the joints of the middle of the finger, states WebMD. Bony knobs or bumps may occur in these areas.

Doctors offer a range of treatment options for treating arthritis of the hand, including anti-inflammatory medications to treat pain and swelling, notes WebMD. Steroid and pain-relief injections sometimes provide relief. Some patients may need to wear wrist or finger splints when performing particular activities. Hot and cold treatments, the application of capsaicin topical ointment, and physical therapy are other options.