Wrist Arthritis – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

What is Wrist Arthritis? 

Wrist arthritis is a degenerative disease that causes pain, swelling, and loss of motion in the wrist. It is most common in people over 50 and can occur due to injury or normal wear and tear on the joint. 

Wrists are made up of eight bones that connect at three different points: the base of the thumb (the carpus), the two halves of the forearm (the radius and ulna), and the hand itself (the metacarpals). The wrist’s range of motion allows us to write, type, play sports, and grip objects tightly. 

Because these joints are so complex, they are vulnerable to injury—especially when you consider all their moving parts: bones, ligaments, tendons, nerves and blood, and vessels.  

What are the Types of Wrist Arthritis? 

The three most common types of wrist arthritis are distal radioulnar, midcarpal, and radiocarpal. 

Distal radioulnar arthritis occurs when a ligament or tendon becomes inflamed and stiff. It’s usually caused by damage to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) on the outside of your elbow. 

Midcarpal arthritis involves damage to the bones in the middle of your wrist. This can be caused by overuse or injury. 

Radiocarpal arthritis is an injury that affects both sides of your wrist simultaneously. This is often caused by osteoarthritis (OA), a degenerative joint disease (DJD). 

What are the Causes of Wrist Arthritis? 

The causes of wrist arthritis are not completely understood, but many factors can contribute to the development of this condition. Some factors that may contribute include: 

Age – The older you get, the more likely your joints will begin to wear down over time. This is especially true if you have been involved in activities that stress your wrists over time (such as sports). 

Gender – Women tend to develop wrist arthritis earlier than men. 

Genetics – If your parents had wrist arthritis or other types of joint problems when they were younger, there’s a good chance you might develop it as well (even if they never told anyone). 

Obesity – Those who are overweight tend to have more joint problems because they carry extra weight around their body, putting more strain on their joints over time.” 

What are the Symptoms of Arthritis of the Wrist? 

The symptoms of arthritis of the wrist range from mild to severe and depend on the type of arthritis. The most common symptom is pain, which occurs early in the disease and can worsen with time. Other symptoms include: 

  • Swelling 
  • Loss of range of motion 
  • Stiffness 
  • Numbness or tingling in your fingers or hand 

How is Arthritis of the Wrist Diagnosed? 

To determine whether or not you have arthritis of the wrist, your doctor will perform a physical examination that includes checking for swelling, tenderness, and pain in the area around your wrist. 

In addition to performing a thorough examination, your doctor may recommend other diagnostic tests. These tests may include the following: 

X-rays – An x-ray can help determine if you have arthritis in your wrist by allowing your doctor to view the bones in your wrist and determine whether they are inflamed or damaged. 

MRI Scan – An MRI scan is an imaging technique that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of soft tissues in the body without using radiation as X-rays do. This test can help determine if there is inflammation or damage in the soft tissues around your wrist, as well as joint damage caused by osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. 

Blood Tests – Blood tests allow doctors to check levels of certain proteins (like C-reactive protein) that indicate inflammation has occurred somewhere in your body, including around joints like those found at the ends of bones where tendons attach them (ligaments). 

What are the Available Non-Surgical Treatment Options?

The non-surgical treatment options for wrist arthritis include: 

  • Pain Relievers: These medications reduce pain and inflammation in your wrists. Commonly prescribed pain relievers include ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen sodium, and acetaminophen. 
  • Rest: Resting your wrist can reduce inflammation, but it’s important to ensure you’re using proper posture when resting your wrist so that you don’t cause further injury. 
  • Exercises: Exercises can be used to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints in your wrist, which can help to improve mobility and decrease pain. Your doctor may also suggest exercises for stretching or strengthening other parts of your body that are affected by arthritis, such as your shoulders or neck (if they’ve been affected). 
  • Splints: Splints are devices that wrap around the joint to provide support while it heals; they’re often used after surgery on a joint because they help prevent future damage while allowing patients time off work during recovery periods (e.g., from surgery). 

What are the Available Surgical Treatment Options?

To effectively treat the condition, it’s essential to understand the different surgical treatment options available. 

Proximal row corpectomy – This procedure involves removing part of the proximal row of carpal bones. It is typically performed when there is little or no joint space between the bones in your wrist. 

Denervation surgery – This treatment option involves removing a nerve from your wrist joint. This surgery works well for people with rheumatoid arthritis who have a limited range of motion in their wrists. 

Fusion surgery – Fusion surgery is used to treat wrist arthritis that has progressed so far that there is no more joint space left between your bones in your wrist. The surgeon will remove the cartilage from your wrist joint and fuse the bones using metal hardware. 

Joint replacement – If arthroplasty has not been successful at treating your wrist arthritis symptoms, you may need to undergo joint replacement surgery to restore full function to your hand. 

Arthritis of the wrist is a common condition that affects many people. The hand and wrist surgeons at Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery, Dubai, provide treatment for arthritis of the wrist, including wrist pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, fractures and dislocations, and tendonitis. 

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