What Is the Difference Between Heberdens & Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Written by stephen venneman
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A medical discovery made in the 18th century is still managing to garner attention in the medical community today. Heberden's Nodes, named for Dr. William Heberden, have become a characteristic of osteoarthritis sufferers. Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers also experience swelling lumps in the same joints affected by Heberden's, but the bumps are not the same.

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Definition

Heberden's Nodes are bony bumps which form on the last joint of the fingers, closest to the fingernail. Medicinenet.com says the bump is actually formed from bony spurs and cartilage.

Significance

Heberden's Nodes occur in people with osteoarthritis. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis also experience firm swellings which are similar, but they are caused by chronic inflammation damaging the bone and cartilage of the joint.

Effects

Heberden's Nodes are responsible for the tips of the fingers becoming twisted or skewed. They can also cause loss of function in the fingers.

Treatment

Because the nodes are formed of cartilage and bone, often the only treatment option is anti-inflammatories to reduce pain and swelling. If the nodes cause cysts to form, then surgery may be the only option.

Misconceptions

Some believe the nodes are a general effect of arthritis. There is a definite distinction, however. Heberden's Nodes are only diagnosed in patients with osteoarthritis, not in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Lastly, Heberden's Nodes are not themselves a condition. They're a result of osteoarthritis.

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