Hand Deformity and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Slowing Disease Progression Is Goal of Early Treatment

Rheumatoid arthritis, X-ray
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Rheumatoid arthritis can result in hand deformity, joint problems, and damage including:

  • rheumatoid nodules
  • swelling
  • joint stiffness
  • ulnar drift / ulnar deviation
  • contractures
  • wrist subluxation
  • other hand, finger, thumb, and wrist problems

What, if anything, can be done to arrest the progression of hand deformity in early, active rheumatoid arthritis?

Hand Deformity / Other Deformities

One thing is certain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Eventually the small peripheral joints of the hands and the wrists will become involved, leading to contractures and deformities.

Hand Deformity Prevention

The most effective prevention for hand deformity is early and aggressive treatment. In combination, drug therapy and occupational therapy can be extremely beneficial to the rheumatoid arthritis patient.

Joint Protection / Exercise

Early in the disease, rheumatoid arthritis patients should be taught joint protection. An occupational therapist can teach rheumatoid arthritis patients how to respect pain by exercising and engaging in activities only up to the point of pain.

In addition, rheumatoid arthritis patients are given exercises to maintain muscle strength, and to stabilize and increase range of motion of involved joints.

Prior to exercising, rheumatoid arthritis patients can benefit from home paraffin wax bath treatments.

Better Daily Living & Activities

Finally depending on the nature and extent of hand deformity, custom dynamic splinting can be fabricated to improve activities of daily living.

All rheumatoid arthritis patients can benefit from rheumatologic rehabilitation.

Answer provided by the late Dr. Raymond Federman, a respected rheumatologist.

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