What is arthritis of the wrist?

Arthritis of the wrist is a condition that affects various tissues of the wrist joint. It may be a short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) inflammation in the joint and its surrounding tissues.

Different Types of Arthritis that Affect the Wrist

There are different types of arthritis that affect the wrist. These include:

  • Osteoarthritis
    Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that develops over time. This usually results from the natural wear and tear of cartilage.
  • Psoriatic arthritis
    Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects some people who have the skin condition psoriasis.
  • Posttraumatic arthritis
    Posttraumatic arthritis occurs as a result of prior injury to the wrist.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
    Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the joints, including those of the hands.

Symptoms of Arthritis of the Wrist

Not all patients with wrist arthritis will have symptoms. If they do, the severity usually varies.

Some patients experience symptoms that come and go, depending on the type and level of their activity. Symptomatic patients (those who have symptoms) usually complain of pain, swelling, weakness in the joint, stiffness, reduced range of motion, and redness.

Diagnosing Arthritis of the Wrist

Wrist arthritis is diagnosed after a review of the patient’s medical history and after performing a thorough physical exam.

During the physical assessment, the doctor will check the wrist and will look for the presence of swelling, tenderness, and pain. He/she will also look into the range of motion of the wrist. This will help the doctor determine if it is really a case of wrist arthritis or of something else. Assessing the range of motion will also help the doctor determine the severity of the arthritis (if it is a case of wrist arthritis).

If arthritis is suspected, the doctor may order additional tests to confirm the diagnosis. This may include x-rays and blood tests. These will help determine what type of arthritis it is.

How It Is Treated

Wrist arthritis doesn’t have a cure but there are ways to manage its symptoms.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Some of the nonsurgical treatment options for wrist arthritis include the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, activity modification (limiting the activities that cause pain), cortisone injections, physical therapy, and hot and cold therapy.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is recommended if there is no relief from nonsurgical treatment options. The goal of the surgery is to improve the hand’s function and reduce the pain.

Some of the surgical options for wrist arthritis include proximal row carpectomy, fusion, and total wrist replacement.