Osteoarthritis of the hand I: aetiology and pathogenesis, risk factors, investigation and diagnosis

J Pharm Pharmacol. 2014 Mar;66(3):339-46. doi: 10.1111/jphp.12196. Epub 2013 Dec 13.


Objective: Osteoarthritis (OA) of the hand can be a debilitating condition that hinders an individual's quality of life. With multiple joints within the hand that are commonly affected OA, an individual's ability to use their hand in everyday movements become more limited. The article aims to review literature on the aetiology and pathogenesis of OA, risk factors, characteristics of hand OA and the steps of diagnosis.

Key findings: The aetiology and pathogenesis of OA, in particular hand OA, is not fully understood. However, it is known that several factors play a role. Environmental factors, such as stress from mechanical loading, especially to vulnerable joints predispose individuals to developing OA. Extracellular matrix changes in protein levels have also been noted in individuals with OA. Linked to hand OA development are boney enlargements (Herbeden's and Bouchard's nodes). Several risk factors for OA include: age, obesity, gender, smoking, genetics, diet and occupation. Various diagnostic methods include a combination of using radiographic methods, clinical presentation, a number of developed measurements and scales.

Summary: With OA having several risk factors and various causes and contributing elements, it is important to elucidate the pathogenesis of OA and determine exactly how risk factors play a role in its development. Because of the contributions from several elements, diagnosis is best when it uses multiple methods. In turn, understanding OA and making better diagnoses could lead to improved management of the condition through both pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions.

Keywords: aetiology; diagnosis; hand; osteoarthritis; risk factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hand*
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnosis
  • Osteoarthritis / etiology*
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology
  • Risk Factors