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Early Arthritis in Fingers and Hands of the Elderly

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms
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While arthritis can strike nearly any joint in the body, the hands are one of the most common places elderly people are affected. There are several different types of arthritis that typically cause arthritis in the hands and fingers, too, and they can affect the joints differently.

For some types of arthritis, it can be crucial to start treatment early in the disease’s progression, before more damage can result. That’s why it’s so important to consult a GP right away if you’re an older person who suspects you might have early arthritis in fingers or other hand joints.

What signs of early arthritis in hands or fingers might your GP look for? And how do different types of early arthritis in hands feel different? Read on to explore all the details.

Different types of hand arthritis

There are a vast number of different types of arthritis out there – over 100, in fact! However, in this piece we’ll focus on some more common types of arthritis that might affect elderly people’s hands.

Often, these variations of the condition share similar symptoms early on. Patients may feel dull or burning pain and stiffness in their hands and fingers. With early arthritis in fingers, older people may feel pain after they have been using their hands.


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK. It’s particularly common in elderly people because it’s strongly connected to “wear and tear” on the joints. Injury, hard usage or just the movements associated with daily life can cause the cartilage in your joints to wear and break down. Overall, osteoarthritis in the hand is especially common in elderly women, and the likelihood of developing hand osteoarthritis increases with age.

Hand osteoarthritis is most common in the joints close to the tips of your fingers and at the base of your thumb. Sometimes, the joint in the middle of the finger can have osteoarthritis too. It’s less typical to have hand osteoarthritis in the knuckle where the fingers meet the hand.

Early arthritis in fingers and hands due to osteoarthritis might feel like occasional pain that comes after activity. As the condition progresses, it can cause bumps or nodules in the hand to develop. These growths of bone typically happen in the three joints we’ve mentioned – the finger joints closest to the fingertip, those in the middle of the fingers, and the joint at the base of the thumb. As hand osteoarthritis continues, the hand can become very stiff and difficult to use.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis, the second most common type of arthritis in the UK, is different from osteoarthritis because its root cause isn’t physical wear and tear. Rather, it’s an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the joints for reasons we don’t yet fully understand. Like osteoarthritis, it’s also more often seen in women.

It’s common for rheumatoid arthritis to manifest first in the hands. However, unlike with osteoarthritis, a common location for rheumatoid arthritis is the knuckles where the fingers connect to the hand. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the middle knuckle of the finger, too. Another unique aspect of rheumatoid arthritis is that it often affects the body in a mirrored way, so that the same joints are affected on the right and left side.

Some signs of early arthritis in hands due to rheumatoid arthritis can be like those of osteoarthritis – pain and stiffness. However, prolonged stiffness of more than half an hour in the morning is more indicative of rheumatoid arthritis. Older people in early stages of rheumatoid arthritis might also feel tired and have swelling or tenderness in their hand joints.

Later, rheumatoid arthritis can cause nodules like those of osteoarthritis. It can also cause deformity in the fingers. Inflammation due to rheumatoid arthritis can cause warmth and sometimes redness in the affected area.

The longer rheumatoid arthritis goes untreated, the more damage is caused to the affected joints. That’s why it’s critical to talk to your GP if you are worried that you might have any indications of early arthritis in hands or fingers. With the correct arthritis diagnosis, you’ll be able to get the help you need.

Gout and psoriatic arthritis

So far, we’ve discussed the types of arthritis most commonly seen in the UK. But there are two other types of arthritis that it’s worth mentioning when it comes to signs of early arthritis in the hands. Both of these types of arthritis can have symptoms like those of osteoarthritis, but their causes are actually very different.

People often think of gout as a condition affecting the feet. However, it is actually a type of arthritis, and it can affect the hands too. Unlike the other types of arthritis we’ve mentioned so far, gout is caused by excessive uric acid in the bloodstream, and it’s more common in men. At its worst, gout can cause swelling and very intense pain.

Psoriatic arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, is an autoimmune condition. An important symptom setting it apart from the other types of arthritis we’ve mentioned is that it can cause small dents or pits in the fingernail, as well as pain and swelling.

How SureSafe can help protect older people with arthritis hand pain and stiffness

While early arthritis in fingers and hands might have mild symptoms, as the condition progresses it can cause significant pain and stiffness in the hands. Lifestyle adaptations are crucial to allow older people to continue living independently despite a decreased ability to use their hands.

These lifestyle adaptations might include lever doorknobs instead of round ones or devices like electric can openers. Another support that can help ensure an older person’s safety is a one-touch personal alarm.

What happens when an older person is facing an emergency situation, but their hand pain and stiffness makes it difficult to use a phone? They need a simple personal alarm that calls for help with just one touch of a button. Whether they opt for a family and friends alarm that calls a loved one for help or a 24/7 monitoring alarm that connects to an expert response centre, that one single button ensures that no time is lost in trying to dial a phone with arthritic and stiff hands.

Of course, older people with hand arthritis are likely to also have or develop arthritis elsewhere in the body, such as in the legs or feet. But when a senior has pain and stiffness in their lower body, that can mean increased worries about falling. An automatic fall detection alarm can help ease these worries. If an older person falls and isn’t able to call for help, the alarm automatically senses that a fall has occurred and raises the alarm on its own.

Find out more about personal alarms

SureSafe’s trusted personal alarms for the elderly provide all these functions and more. We’re market leaders in UK personal alarms, with a wide range of highly reviewed, affordable and user-friendly alarms available.

What else can our personal alarms do? To learn more, give us a call at 0800 112 3201. Our expert team will be happy to chat with you about how our personal alarms can support older people with osteoarthritis in the hands, fingers or throughout the body. Alternatively, get in touch with us through our live chat or request a call back.

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