Wrist, a joint made up of eight bones called carpals, is primarily responsible for joining the bones of the forearm with the hands. Theses joints interact with tendons, fibrous bands, nerves, blood vessels and ligaments and increase the range of motion of the wrists to a great extent. Arthritis affecting the wrist occurs due to the damage of the wrist joint, which leads to the rubbing of bare bones against each other during wrist movement.
This elicits pain, stiffness, swelling and soreness of the wrists that causes considerable amount of discomfort and difficulty in gripping objects in people suffering from wrist arthritis. They are many causes of wrist arthritis, ranging from fractures to severe forms of arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, some of which have been listed below.
Reasons of Wrist Arthritis
Post Traumatic Injury
A wrist sprain that occurs as a result of an injury caused by an accident or a sudden impact placed on the wrists can damage the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones that surround the wrists. Most often, fractures or a broken wrist bone can make the wrist dysfunctional by distorting the structure of the wrists. Post trauma in the affected wrist area can also lead to the destruction of cartilage that surrounds the wrist joints, thus making a person more susceptible to osteoarthritis of the wrist.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease caused by the inflammation of joint lining or synovium, which plays a crucial role in smoothening the joints, a point where the ends of a bone meet. It is auto-immune disorder that occurs due to the attack of the joint tissue, cartilage and ligaments by the body’s own immune system. This elicits a prolonged inflammatory response that leads to pain, burning sensation, swelling and stiffness of the joints.
Even though, rheumatoid arthritis attacks multiple joints in the body, wrists are the most common joints affected in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. When the inflammation reaches the tendon sheath and cartilage that covers the joints, the protective layer around the joints is affected, making the wrist joint far more susceptible to damage.
Pain, swelling and stiffness of knuckle joints of the hand are the most prominent symptoms of wrist arthritis caused by rheumatoid arthritis. This diminishes grip strength and interferes with the ability of the wrist to hold objects. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the joint between the bones of the forearm, namely ulna and radius, thus decreasing the range of motion of the wrists.
People who are genetically susceptible to osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis are in general more likely to suffer from wrist arthritis due to the tremendous amount of pressure placed on the wrists while carrying out day to day activities. Osteoarthritis is a progressive disorder that gradually damages the articular cartilage that covers the end of the carpal bones found in the wrists.
This cartilage facilitates smooth and easy movement of the wrist and keeps the joints healthy by protecting them from daily wear and tear. The damage and erosion of articular cartilage leads to the fusion if the free ends of the carpel bones with the bones in the forearm, namely ulna and radius, consequently causing stiffness and pain in the wrists.
Septic arthritis or infectious arthritis is a form of arthritis caused by the attack of bacteria, fungi or virus on the synovium fluid and the surrounding tissues and lining of the joints. It leads to swelling if the wrists accompanied by the generation of heat. A high fever associated with a prickling sensation on the wrist, when touched, is one of the major symptoms of wrist pain due to infectious arthritis.
Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
Carpel tunnel syndrome is characterized by the compression and damage of the median nerve that passes from the forearm into the hand, through the wrist joint. Certain activities involving repetitive motion of the hands and the wrists like typing, sewing, driving, writing, painitng and playing games likes racquetball can exert pressure on the carpel tunnel, the area in the wrist where the nerves enter the hand.
The pinching of the median nerve that passes through the carpel tunnel blocks the supply of movement and feelings to the other parts of the hand, thus leading to numbness, pain, tingling, weakness of the muscles and other symptoms associated with wrist arthritis.
Hence, limiting or stopping these activities for a certain period of time can bring great relief from the symptoms of wrist arthritis. Also, inflammatory type of arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis and accidental injury to the wrist can damage the median nerve and cause wrist arthritis.
The interruption of blood supply to lunate, a bone found in the hands near the wrist can gradually weaken the bone. Due to the lack of adequate nourishment, the bone weakens and dies leading to a condition called osteonecrosis. Since, lunate forms one of the eight carpal bones that form the wrist, its destruction leads to a painful and a swollen wrist, which over a period of time leads to wrist arthritis. In addition, trauma to the wrist or a sprain can cut off blood supply to lunate, resulting in wrist arthritis associated with Kienböck’s disease.
Thrombocytopenia with absent radius syndrome (TAR syndrome)
Wrist arthritis can also be complication of other underlying conditions like TAR syndrome. Thrombocytopenia with absent radius syndrome is a very rare genetic disorder, which is marked by the absence of the radius bone in the forearm and a decreased count of blood platelets. This leads to severe bruising and the development of abnormally short forearms. Hence, a structurally deficient wrist leads to wrist arthritis accompanied by unnatural movements of the wrist.
Considering the complexity of the structure and the arrangement of the wrist joint and bones, wrist arthritis can limit the use and movement of the wrists to a great extent. In order to prevent wrist arthritis from interfering with your daily activities, it is crucially important to seek medical attention for the proper diagnosis of your condition. Therefore, a careful examination is required to identify the underlying causative factor of wrist arthritis for determining an appropriate treatment plan.
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