Understanding Wrist Arthritis
Arthritis is a general term that refers to the inflammation of one or more joints in the body. It can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, and reduced range of motion in the affected joints. Arthritis is a common cause of wrist pain that affects millions of people worldwide. Wrist arthritis affects the wrist joint, which is formed by the articulation of the distal end of the radius, the articular disc of the distal radioulnar joint, and the proximal carpal bones of the hand (scaphoid, lunate, and triquetrum). The wrist joint is a synovial joint that allows for flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction movements of the hand. Wrist arthritis can impair these movements and cause significant disability and reduced quality of life.
Types Of Wrist Arthritis
Types of arthritis in wrist are:
- Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the gradual deterioration of cartilage, typically manifesting as people age. It usually results from years of wear and tear on the wrist joint. Some individuals may experience Kienbock's disease, which restricts blood supply to the carpal bones in the wrist, leading to cartilage destruction and the onset of osteoarthritis.
- Post-traumatic arthritis: This type of arthritis emerges following an injury such as a fractured bone or a ligament sprain. Arthritis may develop years after the injury, even if bones and ligaments have healed correctly.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that frequently initiates in small joints like the wrists. Typically, this condition affects both sides of the body, affecting both wrists. In this variant, the immune system launches attacks on healthy cells, including cartilage, causing damage.
- Psoriatic arthritis: Psoriasis, another autoimmune condition characterized by scaly skin patches, can also lead to psoriatic arthritis in the wrist and other joints in some individuals.
- Gout: Gout arises when there is an excessive amount of uric acid in the bloodstream. Uric acid is a byproduct of food digestion. The surplus acid can result in the formation of painful crystals in joints. Gout often initially affects the toes but can also involve the wrists and other smaller joints.
There are two main types of wrist arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis of the Wrist
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the wrist. It is caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones in the joint. Cartilage is a smooth and slippery tissue that allows for frictionless movement of the bones. When cartilage wears down, bone rubs against bone, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling. Osteoarthritis can also cause changes in the shape and alignment of the bones, leading to deformity and instability of the joint.
Osteoarthritis of the wrist can develop as a result of aging, injury, overuse, or genetic factors. It can affect any part of the wrist joint, but it is more common in the radiocarpal joint (between the radius and the carpal bones) and the first carpometacarpal joint (between the trapezium and the thumb metacarpal).
Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Wrist
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects multiple joints in the body. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues in the joints, causing inflammation, pain, swelling, and damage to the cartilage, bone, and ligaments.
Rheumatoid arthritis often affects small joints such as those in the hands and wrists. It usually affects both wrists symmetrically (on both sides). Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect other organs and tissues in the body, such as the skin, eyes, heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, but it may be influenced by genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors. It is more common in women than men, and it can occur at any age, but it usually begins between the ages of 30 and 50.
Wrist Arthritis Symptoms
Wrist arthritis can have different causes and types, but the symptoms are often similar.
Typical wrist arthritis symptoms are:
- Wrist pain: This is the most common symptom of wrist arthritis. The pain may vary depending on the type and severity of arthritis, but it usually worsens with movement or activity. The pain may be dull, sharp, throbbing, or burning. It may also radiate to the hand or forearm.
- Wrist swelling: The inflammation in the wrist joint can cause fluid accumulation and swelling around the joint. The swelling may be visible or palpable, and it may make the wrist feel tight or warm.
- Wrist stiffness: The loss of cartilage and the formation of bone spurs in the wrist joint can limit the range of motion and flexibility of the wrist. The stiffness may be worse in the morning or after periods of rest, and it may improve with gentle movement or warm compresses.
- Wrist weakness: The pain and stiffness in the wrist joint can affect the strength and function of the wrist and hand muscles. This can make it difficult to grip, lift, or hold objects. It can also affect fine motor skills, such as buttoning, zipping, or writing.
- Wrist deformity: In some cases, wrist arthritis can cause changes in the shape and alignment of the wrist bones. This can result in deformity and instability of the joint. The deformity may be visible or noticeable when moving the wrist.
The symptoms of the main types of wrist arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, can also be distinguished.
The symptoms of osteoarthritis of the wrist include:
- Pain in the wrist that worsens with activity or movement
- Stiffness in the wrist that limits range of motion
- Swelling and tenderness in the wrist
- Crepitus (cracking or grinding sensation) in the wrist
- Reduced grip strength and difficulty performing daily tasks
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis of the wrist include:
- Pain in the wrist that is worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity
- Stiffness in the wrist that lasts for more than an hour
- Swelling and warmth in the wrist
- Reduced range of motion and function of the wrist
- Deformity and instability of the wrist
- Nodules (firm lumps) under the skin near the wrist
Arthritis In Wrist Treatment
If you experience any of the above mentioned symptoms, you should consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Wrist arthritis can be diagnosed by a physical examination, X-rays, blood tests, or other imaging tests. The treatment options depend on the cause and type of arthritis, but they may include:
- Medications: These can help reduce pain and inflammation in the wrist joint. They may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen; acetaminophen; corticosteroid injections; or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), such as methotrexate or hydroxychloroquine.
- Splints or braces: Wrist braces for arthritis can help support and stabilize the wrist joint, reduce stress on the joint, and limit movement that may cause pain. They may be worn at night or during certain activities. Wrist brace for arthritis can be bought online from our braces & support store.
- Physical therapy: This can help improve range of motion, strength, and flexibility of the wrist joint. It can also teach exercises and techniques to protect the joint from further damage.
Surgery: This may be considered when conservative treatments fail to provide adequate relief or when there is significant joint damage or deformity. The type of surgery depends on the location and extent of arthritis in the wrist. Some common surgical procedures include:
- Joint debridement: This involves removing loose fragments of cartilage or bone from within the joint to improve movement and reduce pain.
- Joint fusion: This involves fusing two or more bones together to eliminate movement and pain in the joint. This can provide stability but also limit mobility.
- Joint replacement: This involves replacing damaged parts of the joint with artificial implants made of metal or plastic. This can restore movement and function but also carry risks such as infection or implant failure.
Wrist arthritis is a common condition that can affect your quality of life. By recognizing its symptoms and seeking medical attention, you can get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. You can also take steps to manage your symptoms at home, such as resting your wrist, applying ice or heat, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, wearing a splint or brace, or doing gentle exercises. With proper care and treatment, you can reduce your wrist pain and improve your wrist function.
Living with Wrist Arthritis
Living with wrist arthritis can be challenging, but there are ways to improve your quality of life and manage your condition. Here are some strategies to cope and thrive with wrist arthritis:
Seek medical help: The first step to living well with wrist arthritis is to get a proper diagnosis and treatment from your doctor. Your doctor can prescribe medications, splints, injections, or surgery to reduce pain and inflammation, prevent joint damage, and improve mobility. Your doctor can also refer you to a rheumatologist, a specialist in arthritis and other joint diseases, or a hand surgeon, a specialist in hand and wrist surgery.
Follow your treatment plan: It is important to follow your doctor's advice and take your medications as prescribed. You should also follow any instructions for wearing splints or braces, doing physical therapy exercises, or preparing for surgery. If you have any questions or concerns about your treatment plan, you should talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Learn about your condition: Educating yourself about wrist arthritis can help you understand your symptoms, causes, types, and treatments. You can find reliable information from reputable sources, such as the NHS, the Hand Society, or Versus Arthritis. You can also ask your doctor or healthcare team for more information or resources.
Manage your pain: Pain is one of the most common and distressing symptoms of wrist arthritis. There are different ways to manage your pain, such as:
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or NSAIDs.
- Applying ice or heat packs to the wrist joint.
- Using topical creams or ointments that contain pain-relieving ingredients.
- Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
- Seeking alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, or aromatherapy.
Protect your joints: Protecting your wrist joint from further damage can help prevent worsening of symptoms and complications. You can protect your joints by:
- Avoiding activities that cause pain or strain on the wrist joint.
- Using assistive devices or aids that make tasks easier and safer, such as ergonomic keyboards, jar openers, or pens with grips.
- Modifying your home or work environment to reduce stress on the wrist joint, such as adjusting the height of your chair or desk, using a wrist rest or mouse pad, or using voice recognition software.
- Wearing protective gear when playing sports or doing hobbies that involve the wrist joint, such as gloves, wrist guards, or splints.
Stay active: Staying physically active can help improve your overall health and well-being. It can also help maintain range of motion, strength, and flexibility of the wrist joint. You should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, such as walking, cycling, or swimming. You should also do some muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week, such as lifting weights, doing resistance bands, or doing hand exercises. You should consult your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise program and avoid any activities that cause pain or discomfort in the wrist joint.
Eat well: Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can help support your immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. You should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy products. You should also limit your intake of processed foods, added sugars, salt, alcohol, and purine-rich foods, such as red meat, organ meats, seafood, and beer. These foods can increase the level of uric acid in the blood and trigger gout attacks.
Seek support: Living with wrist arthritis can affect your emotional and psychological well-being. You may experience feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, anxiety, or depression. You may also face challenges in your personal, social, or professional life. You should not hesitate to seek support from your family, friends, healthcare team, or support groups. You can also talk to a counselor or therapist who can help you cope with your emotions and stress.
Stay positive: Having a positive attitude can help you deal with the challenges of wrist arthritis. You should focus on the things that you can do rather than the things that you cannot do. You should also celebrate your achievements and accomplishments, no matter how small they are. You should practice gratitude for the things that make you happy and bring you joy. You should also set realistic and attainable goals for yourself and work towards them at your own pace.
Living with wrist arthritis can be difficult, but it does not have to stop you from enjoying life. By following these strategies, you can improve your quality of life and manage your condition. Remember that you are not alone in this journey and that there are many resources and people who can help you along the way.
- NHS “Arthritis”
- American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) “Wrist Arthritis”
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) “Arthritis of the Wrist”
- National Library of Medicine (NIH) “Wrist Arthritis”
- Versus Arthritis ”Osteoarthritis of the hand and wrist”
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