There are many forms of arthritis that develop in various joints throughout the human body. Many people around the world see arthritis happen in their hands, specifically in their finger and wrist joints, which can cause loads of problems in completing their everyday tasks such as typing, opening a jar, turning a door knob, and any other activity that would involve your hands gripping and/or twisting something.
For years, scientists have been hard at work trying to discover how to prevent arthritis and how to effectively go about treating it once you have it. While treating it is pretty straightforward through physical therapy and hand exercises, prevention is still something that is yet to be formulated. However, scientists have been able to point out early symptoms of arthritis so that you can recognize it and proceed accordingly before it may become unbearable.
The two most common types of arthritis that occur in the hands are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
According to Harvard Medical School, OA is a “degenerative problem that erodes the cushioning (cartilage) in the joints. As bones grind against each other, new bone forms, showing up as bumps (called nodes) on the joints.”
Dr. Jeffery Sparks, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard, says about OA, “These bony growths cause soft tissue around them to expand. You can get nodes in one or both knuckles, and in different fingers on either hand. Where it shows up is a bit of a mystery.”
OA affects about 32.5 million people in the US today, per Medical News Today.
RA is different as it is an autoimmune disease and can affect “the same joints on both sides of the body, at the same time,” according to Dr. Sparks.
“ [RA] is caused by an overactive immune system that (for unknown reasons) attacks the lining of the joints,” the school adds. “Hands are a common place where RA starts, with the MCP and PIP joints most often affected. As in osteoarthritis, the joints become painful and stiff. However, in RA the joints also become quite swollen, red, and warm, reflecting the inflammation within them.”
What Dr. Vincent was most excited about in the research was they found a “completely new targetable pathway that was identified through a human genetic study and the fact that there are already drugs that have been tested for other indications that could be ‘repurposed’ to treat patients with OA.” also discusses how the carpometacarpal joint (CMC), the joint that connects the thumb to the wrist, often gets overlooked in arthritis studies, as it may be more essential in affecting someone’s everyday tasks than having the condition in places like the knees or hips.
Harvard also discusses how the carpometacarpal joint (CMC), the joint that connects the thumb to the wrist, often gets overlooked in arthritis studies, as it may be more essential in affecting someone’s everyday tasks than having the condition in places like the knees or hips
The following are the symptoms to look out for that could be early warning signs of first-CMC arthritis, as provided by Harvard Medical School:
- aching at the junction of your thumb and wrist
- pain that worsens with use, such as using keys, writing, or opening a jar
- poor ability to function, including weakness of grip
- a bony prominence over the joint, often due to extra bone growth
- pain at rest and/or at night if the arthritis is severe
X-rays can also identify arthritis forming.
Recent studies, per Medical News Today, suggest that a repurposed drug can help treat OA. The study was led by Dr. Tonia Vincent, who is a professor of musculoskeletal biology and director of the Center for Osteoarthritis Pathogenesis at the University of Oxford.
The study identified “a cellular pathway involved in [OA]. In addition, the research has shown that the drug talarozole can target this pathway, possibly changing the progression of OA.”
Talarozole is a retinoic acid metabolism-blocking drug (RAMBA) which reduces the breakdown of retinoic acids. Retinoic acids are involved in cellular communication and the immune response.
According to the study, “The research team demonstrated that talarozole stopped the reduction in the expression of the retinoic acid-producing genes, and an increase of retinoic acid in the joints was linked to the drug.”
What Dr. Vincent was most excited about in the research was they found a “completely new targetable pathway that was identified through a human genetic study and the fact that there are already drugs that have been tested for other indications that could be ‘repurposed’ to treat patients with OA.”
So the future for treating OA and RA are hopeful as scientists continue to research and explore possibilities for treatments. Prevention could be the next step in conquering this condition that rules so many lives around the world.