This could affect any of the three finger joints (the metacarpophalangeal joint, the proximal interphalangeal joint, and the distal interphalangeal joint). In the thumb, it could affect the metacarpophalangeal joint or the interphalangeal joint. Arthritis is not usually confined to the one finger, unless it is caused by previous fracture or trauma in the past.
What does it feel like?
Besides the appearance of prominent bony bumps overlying the joints, most patients initially seek medical attention because those joints hurt, or have become stiff. Pain is usually worse after activity or a long day using the hand. Sometimes it keeps patients awake at night. Sometimes there is also a painful creaking noise (called crepitus) with moving the joint.
What is it?
It is a degeneration of the cartilaginous surfaces that line both the bone ends that make up a joint. As a result, the bones no longer smoothly articulate against each other. This degeneration also causes some inflammatory change in the joint, which leads to pain.
What causes it?
There are many causes of arthritis. The most common form of arthritis is called osteoarthritis, which is often a degenerative arthritis. Other forms of arthritis include inflammatory arthritis, which includes conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriatic arthritis. Crystal arthritis, like gout, is caused by the precipitation of crystals within the joint, whose normal content is a viscous synovial fluid.
What are my treatment options?
These depend on the cause of your arthritis, the severity of the arthritis (as experienced by you, as well as on imaging such as Xray). Some of the larger joints in your fingers may be amenable to a corticosteroid injection. Splinting by a hand therapist may provide some rest and comfort for the joint.
Ultimately, destruction of the joint cartilage warrants surgical management, if your pain interferes with your usual life. Options for management need to be discussed after an assessment by your hand surgeon. These options usually include joint replacement, or joint fusion.