What Causes an Arthritis Flare-Up in the Fingers?

Updated April 17, 2017

According to, an arthritis flare is "a worsening of the disease process." Flares are painful and can come on without warning, accompanied by fatigue and an overall feeling of being under the weather. Knowing the possible causes of flares can be helpful in avoiding them.

Autoimmune Arthritis

Different types of arthritis can have different flare triggers. Be sure you understand what kind of arthritis you are suffering from. This will help you understand the triggers for symptoms in your fingers.

For example, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys the joints. reports that RA tends to attack the hands and fingers first. Some causes of flares in RA include viruses and stress. describes psoriatic arthritis as an autoimmune disease. Affected fingers can become extremely swollen when in a flare, making it difficult to bend them.


Osteoarthritis is the damaging of the joints over time due to use. Triggers for this type of arthritis include an injury or stress to the joints in the fingers.


Arthritis patients who are also smokers should stop the habit immediately. warns that there are toxins contained in tobacco products that cause stress on connective tissues that can trigger flares.

Sports tells readers that certain activities cause damage to the joints and bring on a flare. For example, repetitive movements, like playing tennis, can cause painful flares. Inactivity can cause flares to the fingers as well. It is important to find the balance between overusing and underusing your fingers. When your fingers are red or swollen, rest them as much as possible to try to stop the onset of a major flare.


Arthritis sufferers should avoid stress and learn to manage it. Being stressed out causes the body to release chemicals that can cause flares to occur.

Stress as a trigger is often difficult for arthritis patients to control, since simply having the disease causes stress. However, finding helpful ways to control the stress, such as through yoga and walking, will be very beneficial.

Preventing Flares

Depending upon the kind of arthritis you have, there are numerous medications that can help prevent flares in your fingers. The antimalarial drug Plaquinil is commonly used in patients with autoimmune types of arthritis, as are drugs like Enbrel, Remicade and Humira. Corticosteroid shots are also helpful and can be used to give relief to people with all kinds of arthritis.

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About the Author

Based in Connecticut, Vicki Holmes has been writing for 15 years and has a B.A. in English from The King's College. Drawing on her 20 years as a software trainer, she has authored ten software training manuals. Holmes, as an advocate/patient for sufferers of autoimmune illnesses, frequently writes about health-related topics.