Osteoarthritis in the Hands

Dr. John Watterson, MD, FRCPC, discusses diagnosis, symptoms and treatment of osteoarthritis in the hands.

Loading the player...

Dr. John Watterson, MD, FRCPC, discusses diagnosis, symptoms and treatment of osteoarthritis in the hands.
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. John Watterson, MD, FRCPC

Duration: 1 minute, 26 seconds

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that can affect any area of the body.  Osteoarthritis of the hands is specifically involving certain areas, including the end joints and the middle joints of the hands, and the joint at the base of the thumb.  

Why this is important is because it's very common, particularly in women around the ages of women around the ages of 45 to 65. Men seem to have a slightly later onset.  

The disease, when it comes on, causes pain and stiffness in the hands and loss of grip strength, as well as dexterity. So things such as opening jars or opening a can or gripping something tightly in the hands is made more difficult.  

Osteoarthritis of the hands often runs in families. Many patients will describe having a mother, an aunt, or a sister who has similar changes with enlarged knuckles in the hands and difficulties with grip strength.  

One interesting aspect of osteoarthritis is the fact that some individuals have no symptoms; whereas, others have a lot of symptoms, in terms of pain and stiffness, particularly at onset. It's this latter group that generally tends to seek medical attention for this problem, where a diagnosis is queried and/or made by their treating physician. 

If you think you have symptoms of osteoarthritis of the hands, it is important to seek medical attention, as there is treatment available for this disorder. 

Presenter: Dr. John Watterson, Rheumatologist, Victoria, BC

Local Practitioners: Rheumatologist

97-100 People got two or more of these video questions wrong... ( 29 participated.)

Quiz: Do You Understand Osteoarthritis?


Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body.


Osteoarthritis is most common in the joints of the knees, hips, hands, fingers, neck and spine, although it can affect any joint in the body.


Osteoarthritis symptoms can be worse when you first get up.


Osteoarthritis symptoms include pain, stiffness and swelling in joints, especially when getting up in the morning. If your OA is severe, you may feel pain for the entire day, or lose your ability to use the joint. Pain and stiffness in the hands and loss of grip strength and dexterity are common, making it challenging to open jars or grip something tightly in the hands.


Losing weight won't help osteoarthritis as it doesn't effect weight-bearing joints.


Even five or ten pounds of weight loss significantly reduces the strain across a weight-bearing joint, and can improve pain and reduce the need for joint replacement in the future.


If you have osteoarthritis you will know, as the symptoms are too painful to ignore.


Many individuals will not have any osteoarthritis symptoms. Others will have quite severe symptoms.


Corticosteroid injections can be an effective osteoarthritis treatment.


OA medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroid injections, acetaminophen and pain medications such as opioids

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

QA Chat