HAND & ARM PROBLEMS
Rheumatoid arthritis is a medical condition in which the immune system attacks and damages many parts of the body, including the hands. Rheumatoid arthritis is primarily treated by medical doctors, and may require treatment by an arthritis specialist. Medical resources on rheumatoid and other arthritic conditions are available through the American College of Rheumatology.
The reasons for developing rheumatoid arthritis are not currently known. What is known is that people with rheumatoid arthritis have inflammation or irritation of many of the moving parts of their bodies, including the joints and tendons. This causes pain, swelling, weakness, and over time, loss of the normal shape and alignment of joints. Swelling around the tendons can lead to trigger fingers and carpal tunnel syndrome.
In the hand, any joint can be affected, but common problem areas include the big knuckles of the fingers (the metacarpophalangeal joints) and the wrist bone on the side of the small finger (the ulnar head and distal radioulnar joint). Osteoarthritis is a more common type of arthritis, and different than rheumatoid in that it is much less likely to affect these joints.
It really depends on what the problem is, but in general, carefully planned surgery is worthwhile. Surgery is most helpful for correction of deformity and for preventing tendon rupture. Surgery is less likely to help improve the strength of the hand.
This really can't be predicted. Simple surgery to prevent tendon rupture can help avoid complications which would require more extensive surgery to correct. Surgery to correct nerve problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome may prevent progressive nerve damage. Other than that, it is a quality of life choice.
Some people have deformities which develop over a short period of time, and then don't get much worse. Others gradually get worse and worse. Hands injured by rheumatoid can not be made normal, but very often can be made better with careful planning.
Not all problems require surgery, but the right operation can sometimes make a big difference in the appearance and function of the hand.