As many as 1.3 million people in the United States suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition in which the body mistakenly attacks the lining of your joints. It’s a chronic condition that leads to pain throughout the body that can progress to joint deformities. The damage rheumatoid arthritis does to the hands is particularly notable.
With time, the joint deformities compromise hand and finger movements like gripping, grasping, and pinching. But help is possible.
At Plastic Surgery Arts Center, our plastic surgeon, Dr. Jan Garcia Jr., offers reconstructive surgery to restore function to your hands. The surgery has the added benefit of improving the look of gnarled, deformed fingers, too.
Here’s how hand reconstruction can help you.
What rheumatoid arthritis does to the hands
In people with rheumatoid arthritis, immune cells attack the synovium -- the joint lining that produces fluid to make joints glide smoothly and effortlessly.
Rheumatoid arthritis inflammation makes your synovium swell, leading to the development of an abnormal layer of tissue that causes bone erosion, ligament damage, and cartilage destruction. The joints lose their support, so their shape and alignment degrades.
Your hands contain numerous small bones that are connected by joints, making rheumatoid arthritis especially damaging to this area. You experience inflammation and cartilage destruction in the wrist, finger, and hand joints, resulting in pain, swelling, and disfigurement. The connective tissue in your hands and wrists may also become swollen and painful.
You may develop nodules along your fingers or ruptured tendons that make you unable to straighten the fingers. The fingers and thumbs may also become angled and your wrist bones can collapse. These deformities mean that simple tasks, like getting dressed or opening packaging, are almost impossible.
When reconstruction surgery helps
Medication, splints, and exercises are often successful in helping you manage the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, even those that affect the hands. The goal of treatment is to decrease inflammation and restore function.
When minimally invasive strategies no longer work to relieve symptoms, hand reconstruction surgery is a viable alternative. Exactly what’s involved in your hand surgery depends on your particular case.
About hand reconstruction surgery
Surgery to treat hands affected by rheumatoid arthritis may include:
Dr. Garcia may need to realign and reconstruct tendons in areas of the hand that have loosened or ruptured.
Surgical fusion of key joints can offer stabilization that helps relieve pain.
Dr. Garcia may remove the damaged joint tissue as part of your reconstruction. This can help reduce pain and improve your hand flexibility. Synovectomy can also help prevent your tendons from rupturing.
It’s best to see Dr. Garcia early in your diagnosis, as the sooner a reconstructive operation is performed, the more likely it can help prevent further progression of the disease.
Hand reconstruction surgery is not a one-size-fits-all treatment. Dr. Garcia carefully reviews your case and recommends the optimal treatment for you. Reconstructive surgeries vary in length and complexity.
Surgery also doesn’t cure rheumatoid arthritis, but it can make living with the condition more bearable.
If you notice the effects of rheumatoid arthritis affecting your hands’ appearance and function, contact us at Plastic Surgery Arts Center in Webster, Texas. Call today or use the “book online” button on this website to request an appointment.