What is Wrist osteoarthritis?

Because the condition is caused by 'wear and tear', it tends to affect older people more commonly. It is understood that wrist fractures and injuries can increase your chances of getting wrist osteoarthritis when you get older.

What are the symptoms of wrist osteoarthritis?

The severity of wrist osteoarthritis symptoms is not necessarily reflective of the severity of arthritis seen in imaging tests. In some cases, a small injury could aggravate joint damage which already existed. Wrist osteoarthritis can cause the inflammation of soft tissues which surround the joints - this can, in turn, lead to a number of symptoms, including pain when using the hand to grip objects, a dull ache or sharp pain, a restricted range of motion, and a 'grinding' feeling when using the joint due to the wearing of the cartilage. In severe cases of the condition, deformities can continue to develop as the tissue deteriorates.

What are the causes of wrist osteoarthritis?

Wrist osteoarthritis is characterised by the progressive wear and tear of the cartilage; the tissue which covers the end of the bones in the wrist joint. While the exact cause of wrist osteoarthritis isn't known, there are several factors that are understood to contribute to the development of the condition. These can include injuries to the wrist - such as fractures, sprains and tears - which can change the wrist's anatomy, damaging the articular cartilage and altering joint mechanics. Risk factors associated with wrist osteoarthritis include being over the age of 50, having sustained an injury, or having a joint infection. 

Treatments options for wrist osteoarthritis

Diagnosis of wrist osteoarthritis can be made via a physical examination, including checks for signs of swelling, pain, tenderness, and decreased range of motion. Blood tests and imaging tests such as x-ray may also be ordered.

Conservative treatments that can be effective in addressing wrist osteoarthritis symptoms include hot and cold therapy. Painkillers such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and anti-inflammatory gels can help to ease the symptoms of wrist osteoarthritis, and physiotherapy is another conservative intervention that can reduce pain, increase strength and improve function. Physiotherapy programmes for wrist osteoarthritis are usually centred around hand exercises and joint protection exercises.

Surgical choices would only typically be considered if conservative treatments have proven to be ineffective. Some limited wrist procedures are able to prevent bones from rubbing against each other. Partial fusions remove the arthritic joint and stabilise the wrist, while joint replacement can be recommended in the case of advanced wrist osteoarthritis. Joint replacement can improve the range of motion by replacing arthritic bones with implants. Total fusion is another surgical option that can provide pain relief for severe wrist osteoarthritis - following this procedure the forearm will still rotate at the wrist but the wrist will not be able to bend and straighten.

Do you have any questions about wrist osteoarthritis? Call the experts at Oxford Hand Surgery on 01865 307 634.

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