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Also called: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory arthritis, wear & tear


What is it?

Joint damage associated with pain, stiffness and sometimes swelling



Any or all of the joints in the fingers, thumb or wrist may be affected. Joints can be painful all the time or may be worse after use. Pain can prevent sleep. Deformity of joints may occur with time. Pain, stiffness or deformity may reduce grip strength and dexterity. Symptoms may be worse in cold or damp weather.


What causes it?

The cause of osteoarthritis is unknown but may be associated with heavy use of joints. It is often referred to as ‘wear and tear’ and usually occurs in joints as they age. It may occur prematurely in previously injured joints. The joint covering, known as cartilage, thins and is worn away, causing bone to rub on bone.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition. The defense system of the body causes tissue inflammation, resulting in pain, swelling and ultimately joint destruction and deformity.

Other types of inflammatory arthritis may be associated with conditions such as psoriasis, gout or ankylosing spondylitis.



Activity modification – pain relief by altering the use of affected joint(s).

Pain relief – paracetamol, anti-inflammatory tablets / gels or stronger analgesics

Anti-rheumatoid drugs – if necessary, more powerful medication may be started   by a rheumatologist for inflammatory arthritis

Splints – pain relief by protecting and reducing movement in the affected joint.

Steroid injection – may give pain relief of variable duration.


Bone removal – removing all or part of a bone stops the two bones rubbing.

Fusion – joining bones together stops pain by stopping movement.

Osteotomy – realigning the joint surface to change the forces across the joint.

Joint replacement – may be appropriate for some joints (eg wrist / fingers)



Mucoid Cyst


What is it?              A lump near the nail of finger or thumb.

What causes it?    Arthritis of the underlying joint, often with a small bone spur.

Symptoms             May be painful, especially if knocked. May fluctuate in size

                                  or discharge fluid. The adjacent nail may be grooved.

Treatment              If troublesome, may be removed

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