A smooth and shiny material known as cartilage covers the part of the bones that come together to form joints. The wrist is made of many bones and the forearm has two long bones known as the radius and ulna. After the forearm there are two rows of small bones called the carpal bones and all these bones are covered by smooth cartilage. Wrist arthritis happens when there is loss of cartilage between wrist bones.
Wrist arthritis can happen in different parts of the wrist. Midcarpal arthritis involves only the rows of the carpal bones, whereas radiocarpal arthritis occurs at the joint where the small bones and long forearm bones meet.
Although there is no cure for arthritis yet, there are many treatment options available to relieve your symptoms. Most of these options aim to slow the progression of joint damage.
There are four types of arthritis that affect the wrists:
- Osteoarthritis (OA): Develops over time as cartilage naturally wears down
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): An autoimmune disease that triggers the body to attack its own tissues
- Posttraumatic arthritis (PA): This is often a result of an injury to the wrist
- Psoriatic arthritis: An inflammatory skin and joint disease
Patients with RA are more likely to have wrist arthritis and over time they may experience difficulty in bending their wrists or performing daily activities.
Arthritis affects the bones by destroying cartilage, causing your bones to rub against each other. Some signs and symptoms of wrist arthritis include:
- Pain and stiffness
- Swelling of the wrist area
- Limited range of motion
- Clicking, cracking, or grinding sounds upon movement
However, it is important to note that not everyone suffering from wrist arthritis will develop the same symptoms. The development of symptoms is dependent on the type of arthritis and the severity of your condition. For instance, patients suffering from RA tend to suffer from long-lasting stiffness, swelling and redness of the wrist joint. Patients with RA may also experience fatigue, general discomfort and lack of appetite.
Patients with moderate arthritis may also experience restricted movement and performance of daily tasks may become tricky. Some patients may feel pain when they are at rest with each flare-up being worse than the one before. The signs of inflammation may become more obvious and the affected areas become tender to touch.
You may have developed severe arthritis if performing any activity causes wrist pain, with the pain becoming constant. You will also experience decreased motion in the affected joint and notice physical deformity as your wrist tissues wear down.
Your hand specialist will usually diagnose wrist arthritis with a thorough assessment and X-rays. During the physical examination, the hand doctor will look for areas of pain, swelling, as well as, decreased motion. X-rays are often used to look for cartilage loss, as evidenced by joint space narrowing. He/she will also ask about your symptoms, activity level, work, as well as, lifestyle to discuss the best treatment options for you.
Most hand specialists will recommend conservative treatment options such as rest and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation. They may also recommend steroid injections if your inflammation is severe.
If conservative treatments prove to be ineffective, your hand doctor may advise you to undergo surgery. Simpler surgeries tend to include wrist denervation, a procedure where your hand surgeon removes the nerves that go into the painful arthritic wrist joint. Other surgical procedures include removal of one or more of the smaller wrist bones, as well as, wrist fusion or replacement.
It is best to seek the recommendations of a hand specialist or a hand surgeon to determine the right treatment option for you.
Every case is different, hence it is best to consult a hand surgeon to determine the treatment method that is most suitable for you. Reach out to us today if you are suffering from wrist arthritis and let us help you.