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At Slocum Center, several of our orthopedic surgeons specialize in treating osteoarthritis of the hand. Your care will be provided by a team whose experience is virtually unmatched in Eugene, the surrounding areas of Oregon, and throughout the Northwest. 

Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, occurs when the cushioning cartilage that covers the bone surfaces at the joints begins to wear out. It may be caused by simple "wear and tear" on joints, or it may develop after an injury to a joint. It is most often seen where the thumb and wrist meet, at the joint closest to the fingertip or at the middle joint of a finger. It may also develop in the wrist.

Cause

The cause of primary arthritis is not known. Secondary arthritis is sometimes the long-term result of joint injuries, mechanical trauma, or pre-existing lesions. Sometimes arthritis develops as the result of an infection in a joint.

When arthritis occurs due to disease, the onset of symptoms is gradual and the cartilage decreases slowly. The two most common forms of arthritis from disease are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is much more common and generally affects older people. It appears in a predictable pattern in certain joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis has other system-wide symptoms and may be passed from parent to child. When arthritis is due to trauma, it's because the injury has caused cartilage damage. This type of arthritis can affect people at any age.

About one out of every five people in the United States has at least one joint with signs or symptoms of arthritis, and half of those are under age 50. The number of people with arthritis in the hand and wrist is unknown. Arthritis typically results from either disease or trauma.

Fractures - particularly those that damage the joint surface - and dislocations are the most common injuries that lead to arthritis. An injured joint is approximately seven times more likely to become arthritic, even if the injury is properly treated. However, arthritis does not have to result in a painful or sedentary life. It is important to seek help early so that treatment can begin promptly, enabling the sufferer to resume the activities that matter most.

Treatment

Conservative treatment is the first step to relieve pain and restore function. Anti-inflammatory or other analgesics, periods of rest, and/or the use of finger or wrist splints are options. When rigid splints are too restrictive, soft sleeves may be used. The heat of warm wax or paraffin baths may help in some cases. With severe swelling, ice may be beneficial. Most importantly, maintain motion in the fingers. Hand therapy may be indicated. A cortisone injection often provides relief of symptoms, but is not a cure.

When there is too much pain or too little function, surgery may be necessary. There are two types of surgery: joint fusion and joint reconstruction. Three factors affect which surgery is best for the patient: the joints involved, the person's activities and his/her needs. In a joint fusion, the arthritic surface is removed and the bones on each side of the joint are fused together to eliminate motion. In a joint reconstruction, the degenerated joint surface is removed, eliminating the rough, irregular bone-to-bone contact that causes pain and restricts motion. Options for replacement depend on the joint involved and can include tissue from the patient's own body, such as a rolled-up tendon or artificial implants.

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