What is Finger Arthritis?

Arthritis describes joint destruction and is broken down into three types: osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis and post-traumatic arthritis. The most common form is Osteoarthritis (OA), which is when the smooth layer of cartilage breaks down and does not heal. Inflammatory arthritis, which is less common than OA, is an autoimmune attack on the cells that line the joints and tendons (synovial cells). Post-Traumatic arthritis is also called “wear and tear arthritis” as it occurs when persistent joint irregularities and joints remain unstable or loose and cause a loss of their cartilage.

Symptoms & Causes

Surprisingly, the most common symptom of arthritis in the fingers is a painless swelling at the distal interphalangeal joint or the end knuckle of the finger. It is very common to get osteoarthritis in this joint. It usually doesn’t hurt, but it can limit motion. Arthritis will first cause swelling and loss of motion, but pain can arise as the joint spaces become narrowed or irregular.  Sometimes arthritis can give rise to mucinous cysts in this joint, a common side effect.

Affected Populations

Osteoarthritis is by far the most common type of arthritis in the hands and fingers. For some reason, it is more common in women than in men. Some people can get osteoarthritis at a very young age (20-30) whiles others may live into their 90s with no arthritis.


Activity modification, anti-inflammatory medication, and splinting can help individuals who have minor arthritis. However, there is nothing to prevent or slow the progression of osteoarthritis or post-traumatic arthritis. If an individual has inflammatory arthritis, treatment by a rheumatologist is warranted, as some patients can benefit from disease-modifying medications. Surgical treatment is reserved for those with continued pain. Surgical treatment for finger arthritis will not increase motion or function; it will only decrease pain. Surgical intervention for finger arthritis is mostly dependent on the location of the arthritic joint.

Finger Arthritis

Finger Arthritis