Hand osteoarthritis

Hand osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that affects the joints of the hands and fingers. It is a degenerative joint disease that can cause pain, stiffness, and loss of function.


The diagnosis of hand osteoarthritis is typically made through a combination of physical examination, medical history, and imaging studies. During a physical exam, a doctor will assess the range of motion, strength, and tenderness of the joints in the hands. Imaging studies such as X-rays or MRIs may be used to visualize the extent of damage to the joints. Blood tests may also be performed to rule out other types of arthritis or autoimmune conditions.


There are several different phenotypes or patterns of hand osteoarthritis. The most common phenotypes are nodal osteoarthritis, erosive osteoarthritis, and generalized osteoarthritis.

Nodal osteoarthritis: This is the most common phenotype of hand osteoarthritis and typically affects the distal interphalangeal (DIP) and proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joints at the tips of the fingers, causing painful and enlarged nodes.

Erosive osteoarthritis: This phenotype is characterized by the presence of bone erosions and may affect the small joints of the hands, causing significant pain and stiffness.

Rhizarthrosis, also known as thumb arthritis, is a type of osteoarthritis that affects the base of the thumb. It is a common condition that can cause pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the thumb.

Generalized hand osteoarthritis: This phenotype affects multiple joints in the body, including the hands.


The treatment of hand osteoarthritis depends on the severity of the condition and the specific phenotype. Treatment options may include:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, oral analgesics, chondroitin sulfate or glucosamine sulfate and topical analgesics may be prescribed to help relieve pain, inflammation, and slow the progression of the disease.

A physical therapist can develop an exercise program to improve joint mobility and strength in the hands.

Corticosteroid injections may be used to provide short-term pain relief and reduce inflammation.

Wearing a splint or brace can help support the joints and can reduce pain and stiffness in some selected case.