Even though “wear and tear” arthritis or osteoarthritis is quite common than rheumatoid arthritis, both can frequently affect the hands. A diagnosis of the condition is made by assessment of the type of joint involvement, duration of the symptoms as well as the results of the blood tests.
The initial symptom of this autoimmune disease tends to vary and might include low fever, fatigue, muscle aches and depression. The condition specifically targets the small-sized joints of the hands and feet, resulting to swelling, soreness and inflammation. After some time, this can lead to diminished movement, evident deformities and weakness.
Joint pain and swelling
Pain in the joints of the hands is a typical symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. At the start of the disease, only a few individuals suffer from hand issues. The hand pain is usually accompanied by joint swelling and the affected joints might be slightly reddened or feel warm. The joints are often affected on both sides of the body.
Joint stiffness and muscle weakness
The joints might feel rigid especially in the morning. The stiffness experienced in the morning can last for at least an hour is indicative of rheumatoid arthritis. In contrast, morning stiffness due to osteoarthritis often clears up within half an hour.
When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, muscle weakness of the hands roughly affects many individuals as joint stiffness. Some individuals could not form a fist. The muscles of the hands shrink in size and become weaker from misuse. The pain, weakness and stiffness can contribute to issues while performing tasks such as twisting, opening jars or typing.
Deformity of the wrist and fingers
Many individuals with rheumatoid arthritis experience symptoms affecting the wrist early on. The usual sign is instability of the joint at the side of the little finger in which one of the forearm bones protrudes slightly. The hand can also deviate toward the thumb side of the wrist due to the continued destruction of the joint.
Finger deformities are also present among individuals after 8 years of the disease. This can involve the knuckles or set of finger joints beyond the knuckles. The deformity develops due to joint destruction and damage to the ligaments and tendons that normally hold the finger bones in place. The fingers are angled away from the thumb. In addition, the fingertips might point palm-wards with the nearest finger joint bent upwards. In another similar deformity, the joint near the knuckle bends upwards.
What are the other symptoms?
The inflammation of the joint can cause detrimental effects on the nerves in the hand. Some individuals can suffer from loss of sensation or a feeling of pins and needles in the hand due to the rheumatoid arthritis-linked carpal tunnel syndrome. The lumps beneath the skin which are called rheumatoid nodules can develop in the fingers and hands as well.