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Conditions & Treatments

Wrist Arthritis

What is wrist arthritis?

More than 40 million people in the U.S. have some type of arthritis, a condition which can affect multiple joints throughout the body. It can result in breakdown of the cartilage causing damage that is painful and debilitating. There are three general types of arthritis that can affect the wrist:

  • Also called “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that gradually worsens over time. The cartilage that covers the ends of bones to ensure smooth motion of the joint gradually wears down. This develops as a result of a combination of the natural aging process and is influenced by genetic factors.
  • Inflammatory arthritis. This includes conditions such as rheumatoid and gouty related arthritis. This is a painful disease that often affects multiple joints at the same time, including the wrists and knees. It occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks and damages the synovial membrane, which surrounds the cartilage and produces lubrication fluid for the joint.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis. Post-traumatic arthritis occurs when an injury directly or indirectly damages the cartilage of a joint and a process of degeneration and inflammation.

What are the symptoms of wrist arthritis?

All types of arthritis have symptoms of pain, swelling and stiffness. The inflammation associated with arthritis often leaves the joint warm to the touch and can even redden the skin. As cartilage damage occurs, the joint reacts producing increased fluid. This results in pain, stiffness and inflammation. Some symptoms differ according to type of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis symptoms:

  • Bony nodules/deformity at the joints
  • Deep pain at base of thumb (basilar arthritis)
  • Difficulty gripping or pinching objects
  • Loss of motion
  • Stiffness, particularly in the morning

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms:

  • Systemically affected joints, such as both wrists
  • Flu-like feeling throughout body
  • Fatigue

Post-traumatic arthritis:

This can be a combination of many of the rheumatoid or osteoarthritis symptoms.

Who is likely to get wrist arthritis?

Wrist arthritis can affect people of all ages, yet each type of arthritis has different groups at risk. Osteoarthritis is more common with age but can occur relatively early if there are genetic factors increasing the risk. It causes more disability in active people. Rheumatoid arthritis is found more commonly in women and post traumatic arthritis can occur in anyone after an injury. These are some of the most common risk factors for arthritis:

  • Gender — more prominent in women
  • Active lifestyle
  • Genetics
  • Advanced age
  • Injury to joint

What causes wrist arthritis?

There are many causal factors in the development of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis may be associated with genetic factors, viral or bacterial infections or even hormones. Post-traumatic arthritis is caused by damage to the cartilage from an accident or injury.

How is wrist arthritis diagnosed?

Wrist arthritis is diagnosed through a careful examination of the wrist and other joints throughout the body. The specialists at Orthopedic Associates of Northern California consider factors such as pain, joint mobility, swelling, appearance and lifestyle to help determine diagnosis. An X-ray or other imaging tests may be performed to inspect bones for degeneration and search for thinning between bones in the joint. In some cases, rheumatoid arthritis can be diagnosed with blood or joint fluid tests that check for inflammatory indicators.

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