Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. Healthy joints move easily because of a smooth, slippery tissue called articular cartilage. Cartilage covers the ends of bones and provides a smooth gliding surface for the joint. When arthritis occurs due to disease, the onset of symptoms is gradual and the cartilage decreases slowly, resulting in symptoms such as pain, swelling, joint stiffness and deformities. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but there are more than 100 different forms.
The hand and wrist have multiple small joints that work together to produce motion, including the fine motion needed to thread a needle or tie a shoelace. When these joints are affected by arthritis, daily activities can be difficult to accomplish. Arthritis can occur in many areas of the hand and wrist and can have more than one cause.
Over time, if the arthritis is not treated, the bones that make up the joint can lose their normal shape. This causes more pain and further limits motion. Here are some common types of arthritis that occur in the hand.