People with OA can develop swelling and redness around the joints of their fingers. Bumps around the farthest joints in your fingers (the ones farthest from your wrist) are called Heberden's nodes. They are typically about the size of a pea and are sometimes painful when they first develop, but frequently become less painful later. These knobby bumps are named after a British doctor, William Heberden, who worked in London at the time of the American Revolution.
Bumps around the next set of finger joints (the joints in the middle of the fingers) are called Bouchard's nodes. These nodes were first described by a French physician, Charles Joseph Bouchard, who worked in Paris during the nineteenth century. Bouchard's nodes occur less commonly than Heberden's nodes. Both types of nodes are caused by the same inflammatory process that causes swelling and pain in the hips and knees, and both are classic signs of OA.
Knobby overgrowths of the middle joint of the fingers in people with osteoarthritis.
Bouchard's and Heberden's nodes usually develop during middle age and begin with swelling and redness. The swelling is at first painful and tender; later, the redness goes away, and the pain and tenderness become less pronounced. The swelling is caused by inflammation of the cartilage in the finger joint. Eventually, small amounts of bone grow around the joint, leading to bone spurs. The nodes become hard and immovable. Infrequently, the nodes can become large enough to cause numbness in the fingertips and make it difficult to flex the fingers or make a fist. They may even cause the fingers to deviate sideways.
Heberden's nodes are more commonly found in women than in men. These nodes rarely require treatment, but if they reduce the functioning of the hand, surgery can help.