Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease which causes the cartilage surrounding your bones to wear away. Cartilage is tough but flexible and surrounds the ends of your bones allowing them to move over one another forming a joint. When the cartilage wears away bone rubs on bone which gives rise to a painful inflamed joint.
Why does is occur?
Osteoarthritis is a common degenerative disease affecting joints. Anyone can get it but there are a number of factors that may increase the risk of osteoarthritis:
- Age: tends to affect people aged 40+ as muscles become weaker and joints gradually wear over time
- Gender: Osteoarthritis is more common in females than males (particularly in the hands and knees)
- Weight: being over-weight puts more stress on your joints and can increase your chance of developing arthritis
- Family: some forms of osteoarthritis run strongly in families and can be linked to genetics
- Previous injury: an injury or operation on a joint can lead to osteoarthritis in a joint. Similarly some hard repetitive activities or physically demanding jobs can increase the risk of the condition
- Other joint diseases: such as rheumatoid arthritis / gout can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of OA in the PIP joint are pain in the area on movement and swelling around the joint.
People may also experience:
- difficulty gripping/ weakness
- Enlarged appearance of the joint
- Limited movement
- Altered positing of the fingers
What tests might be done?
You may need to have X-Rays of your finger to allow the doctor to see which areas are affected by arthritis.
Sometimes CT scans (also known as CAT scans) may be undertaken to give the doctor a more in-depth view of the finger to diagnose the problem.
Blood tests may be required to rule out any other cause for finger pain such as rheumatoid arthritis.
What is the treatment?
- Medication: such as non steroidal anti-inflammatories e.g. Ibuprofen can help with swelling/ inflammation and pain killers can help alleviate pain
- Splinting: Sometimes splints can be used to protect and support the joint to help alleviate some of the pain
- Joint protection advice/ aids: Sometimes advice on how to protect your joints throughout every day tasks can help to alleviate symptoms
- Steroid Injections: Localised injections directly into the affected joint to help reduce inflammation and pain
- Joint replacements: special prosthetics/ false joints are put in place of the arthritic joint to enable less painful movement
- Joint Fusions: a plate and screws is put across the joint in question to hold it ridged in one position to alleviate symptoms caused by movement. The finger will not bend at this joint after this operation.