How is Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Hands Treated?

Autumn Rivers

Rheumatoid arthritis of the hands is incurable, but it can be managed through various types of treatment. Many people seek medical help from their doctor, who can prescribe medication that reduces or eliminates discomfort while slowing the progression of this condition. In severe cases, surgery can be used to replace joints or fuse them together so that the hands can still be used regularly. This condition may also be treated at home through hand exercises.

A model of a human hand.
A model of a human hand.

There are various medications available for treating rheumatoid arthritis of the hands. Mild cases can usually be treated with over-the-counter drugs, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, but most people find themselves in need of prescription-strength drugs to reduce inflammation and pain in the hands. Corticosteroids may be injected into the joints by a doctor, and may be used as either a short-term or long-term treatment, but in either case the lowest dose possible is usually considered the safest to avoid side effects. Another type of treatment for this condition is the use of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, which can slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis of the hands but do not provide any pain relief. One or all of these medications may be given, depending on the severity of the case and the opinion of the doctor.

A hand with arthritis in the lower part of the thumb.
A hand with arthritis in the lower part of the thumb.

Surgery is typically only recommended for the more severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis of the hands, and usually only after medications have been given without any sign of improvement. In order to reduce pressure on the joints, it may be necessary to remove pieces of bone, nodules, or inflamed tissue. This is usually considered preventive surgery since it can keep serious medical consequences from occurring, while the removal of some joint lining may be necessary in cases that have already progressed. Additionally, joints may be fused together or completely replaced in some cases, as these types of treatment may reduce discomfort and allow the hands to be used regularly once again.

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Some rheumatoid arthritis patients have found acupuncture to be an effective treatment option.
Some rheumatoid arthritis patients have found acupuncture to be an effective treatment option.

Some people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis of the hands prefer to try to treat the issue on their own using hand exercises. This kind of treatment can be helpful since it keeps the hands properly stretched and mobile rather than atrophied. One of the basic exercises involves keeping the wrist, middle, and end joints straight while bending the base joints toward the palm of the hand, holding the position for ten seconds. Another exercise should start with the hand and fingers straight, and end with the fingertips against the palm, similar to a loose fist position. These and similar hand exercises should be completed a few times each day to keep the joints flexible and healthy.

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause hand pain and stiffness.
Rheumatoid arthritis can cause hand pain and stiffness.
Over-the-counter medications for rheumatoid arthritis.
Over-the-counter medications for rheumatoid arthritis.
If not treated properly, hands with rheumatoid arthritis can become atrophied.
If not treated properly, hands with rheumatoid arthritis can become atrophied.
Rheumatoid arthritis of the hands is incurable, but treatable.
Rheumatoid arthritis of the hands is incurable, but treatable.
Treatment for arthritis of the hands can depend on severity of symptoms.
Treatment for arthritis of the hands can depend on severity of symptoms.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes chronic inflammation of the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes chronic inflammation of the joints.

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