Rheumatoid arthritis is one of many different types of arthritis. This progressive autoimmune condition is characterized by inflamed joints that cause pain and limit your ability to move the afflicted area. Many people wake up with stiff and swollen joints, which may look red and feel hot. Some of the most common areas in which rheumatoid arthritis develops is the wrists and knuckles, usually effecting both hands. Over time, they can become disfigured with joints and fingers dislocating or being forced into permanently bent positions. If severe enough, rheumatoid arthritis may require surgery to improve your joint function.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic inflammatory autoimmune disease that effects the cells that lubricate and line the joints. This lining begins to swell and stretch supporting tissues such as the ligaments and tendons. As this happens, the area can gradually become more deformed and lose mobility, with joint cartilage and bone wearing away.
Any type of arthritis typically causes stiffness, swelling, and pain, but rheumatoid arthritis, specifically, has unique symptoms that sufferers typically experience. This includes:
- Hard knots on the fingers
- A soft bump on the back of the hand that shifts when you move your fingers
- Fingers bent in an abnormal way
- Painful, enlarged knuckles
- An inability to move a finger
- A bent or over-extended middle joint
- Protruding bones in the wrist
Those with rheumatoid arthritis may also experience numbness or tingling that is felt with carpal tunnel syndrome, since swelling in the joint can compress the nerve in the wrist.
To be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, you will undergo a physical examination, x-rays, and lab tests. You will also be asked about your symptoms, how the condition is effecting your lifestyle, as well as any family history of the disease. To confirm your diagnosis, your doctor may need to conduct a blood test and/or perform x-rays or an MRI scan.
Treating the condition is meant to reduce swelling and pain while restoring function of the area. Although there is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis, new medications are available that control the inflammatory process and slow the disease’s progression. Treatment often entails help from surgeons, rheumatologists, and therapists. A hand therapist can help you find alternative ways to use your hands to limit pain and preserve your joint health, such as by teaching you exercises and providing splints to aid in your daily movement. Your physician may recommend preventive surgery to remove lumps, inflamed tissue, or bone spurs.
A variety of procedures can be used to treat the joints damaged by rheumatoid arthritis. Our team performs hand reconstruction, which can entail removing the inflamed lining of the joint and repositioning the tendons, replacing the joint with an artificial version, and even performing a joint fusion. Multiple surgeries may be necessary to reach optimal results.
The most appropriate surgery for your individual case of rheumatoid arthritis will depend on such factors as which joints are effected, the severity of your condition, and the health of your adjacent joints. The best form of treatment will ultimately be decided based on your physical needs.
To learn more about rheumatoid arthritis and which treatment may be best for your condition, please contact us to set up an appointment with one of our experienced reconstructive surgeons.
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