Julian Carlo, MD - Hand & Upper Extremity Surgeon

Mon-Thurs: 8am to 5pm, Fri: 8am to 12pm
Mon-Thurs: 8am to 5pm, Fri: 8am to 2pm
a woman with finger osteoarthritis

Finger osteoarthritis

What is it?

Osteoarthritis of the fingers is the wear and tear of the cartilage surfaces of the joints of the fingers—the distal interphalangeal joints, the proximal interphalangeal joints, the thumb interphalangeal joint, and the metacarpophalangeal joints. 

What causes it?

As we age, the cartilage of our fingers loses its resiliency and is susceptible to damage from the accumulation of joint stresses.

What are the symptoms?

Degenerative changes to the finger joints can result in pain, swelling, stiffness,  deformity, and loss of function.

How is it diagnosed?

A history and physical examination is sufficient to diagnose arthritis of the fingers. Xrays greatly help to show the severity of the arthritis and can help guide treatment.

How is it treated?

Mild symptoms and early arthritis can be managed conservatively with oral anti-inflammatory medication, splints, activity modification, and injections. When arthritis is severe, some joints are better treated with fusion, which eliminates any motion of the joint in exchange for stability and pain relief. Other joints are better treated with motion preserving surgeries, or joint replacements. The best treatment option will depend on many factors, such as the finger affected, the severity of arthritis, the pre-existing range of motion, the degree of deformity present.

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