Osteoarthritis of the Hands

Osteoarthritis of the hands is a chronic, progressive disease that primarily affects the articular cartilage in the joints of the hands. This condition is characterized by the gradual degeneration of this cartilage, leading to a range of symptoms and complications that can significantly impact a person's quality of life.

What is Osteoarthritis of the Hands?

Osteoarthritis of the hands is a degenerative joint disease. It involves the progressive breakdown of the articular cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones in the joints. This degeneration leads to the wear and tear of the joint, resulting in impaired movement and potentially, structural deformities.

A picture showing the comparison between a normal hand and a hand affected by arthritis. The hand affected by this condition displays clear signs of deformity.

Several factors can contribute to the onset of this disease, including genetic predisposition and aging. It can also be triggered by traumatic events, fractures, excessive stress, continuous use of certain joints, infections, and other diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

In some cases, osteoarthritis of the hands can stem from primary cartilage defects and endocrine-metabolic diseases such as hemochromatosis, diabetes, and gout.

Symptoms and Progression of the Disease

Osteoarthritis of the hands often starts asymptomatic, but over time, it tends to increase in severity, causing various disorders. The primary symptom is pain in the fingers and hands, which is often more intense after waking up or following excessive strain on the limb. In more severe cases, the pain may persist even at rest.

As the disease progresses, it can lead to swelling, reduced mobility, and joint noises. It may also cause the appearance of hard-elastic nodules at the level of the proximal interphalangeal joint (known as Bouchard's nodes) or on the distal end of the fingers (referred to as Heberden's nodes). These nodular lesions can cause the involved fingers to deviate, leading to deformities and frequent inflammatory phenomena.

Other symptoms may include local redness, stiffness, or numbness in the joints of the fingers and the base of the thumb.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the hands is typically established through a medical examination and confirmed by radiological investigations. These investigations often reveal a reduction in the joint space due to the disappearance of the cartilaginous tissue.

The treatment of this condition is primarily symptomatic and involves resting the affected hand, using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and administering corticosteroids by infiltration. In some cases, instrumental physical therapy (such as ultrasound or iontophoresis) may be beneficial. Surgical treatment is rarely indicated.


Osteoarthritis of the hands is a chronic, progressive disease that can significantly impact a person's daily life and overall well-being. Recognizing the symptoms early and seeking medical advice promptly is crucial for managing the disease effectively and preventing further joint damage.

While this guide aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the disease, it is not intended to replace professional medical advice. If you suspect you may have this condition, consult with healthcare professionals for a more precise diagnosis and treatment plan.

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The Wellyme Team

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