The hand has multiple small joints, which provide us the luxury of creating fine movements. The articular cartilage covers the surface at the end of bones and allows joints to easily glide during finger, hand, and wrist movements. This smooth surface is lubricated by a fluid, which is produced by the joint lining called synovium.
When hand joints are affected by arthritis, the cartilage and the synovium are slowly destroyed, making even the simplest hand movements difficult. Arthritis can affect only one joint, several joints, or the entire hand, and can have more than one cause. If it is not treated, the joints involved can lose their normal alignment, limiting hand movement, causing more pain. There are more than one hundred different types of arthritis, which are all caused by joint inflammation. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid, and post-traumatic arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is also known as "wear and tear" arthritis and generally affects older people. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease which causes synovium swelling, resulting in pain and stiffness of the joint. Post-traumatic arthritis arises as a result of the joint fracture. Even when treated in an appropriate and timely manner, healed joint is likely to become arthritic over time.
For in depth information on arthritis affecting the hand joints, see Hand Arthritis, Knuckle Arthritis, and Thumb Arthritis.