The hand is made of many small bones, and fingers are specially designed to bend at three joints. Swelling at these joints may be the result of an injury or a symptom of a larger problem. Joint swelling is the inflammation of the soft tissue surrounding the bony structures of the joint.
Causes of Swollen Finger Joints
Finger joints can become swollen for a variety of reasons. The joint may be wounded if the hand gets injured in some way or if something bends a finger in the wrong direction. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis may both cause inflammation of the finger joints. Arthritis can strike any joint in the body, but it is most noticeable in the hands. Other forms of arthritis, like gout, may be at fault.
Symptoms of Swollen Finger Joints
Swollen finger joints are often quite stiff and painful. Swelling may make the joint quite large and misshapen. The joints may even be red and warm to the touch. Arthritis may make fingers appear crooked as each joint turns the bones of the fingers in different directions.
Diagnosis of Swollen Finger Joints
A trip to the doctor may be necessary to diagnose the cause of swollen finger joints. The physician will examine the finger and take X-rays. Further testing like MRIs, CAT scans and blood tests may be ordered.
Risks of Swollen Finger Joints
There is risk of infection if the joint is swollen due to a cut in skin or a broken bone. If the swelling is caused by rheumatoid arthritis, the joint can be damaged by using the joint while it is swollen. If the reason why the joint is swollen is unknown, it may be helpful to immobilize the finger until swelling subsides or a physician is consulted.
Treatment of Swollen Finger Joints
Treatment will largely depend on the cause of the swelling. Often anti-inflammatory drugs are given, either by prescription or purchased over the counter. Injuries may be treated with hot and cold compresses and immobilization of the finger or hand. Still other treatments may involve physical therapy. If excess fluid is the cause, it may be removed from the joint with a needle. Rarely, surgery is needed.
Prevention of Swollen Finger Joints
Protecting the hands and fingers from injury is always important but not always possible. To prevent infection, gloves should be worn whenever performing any task that may cut the skin. Repetitive tasks that may lead to osteoarthritis, like typing or knitting, should be avoided or minimized.