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What Does Arthritis in the Wrist Feel Like?

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

If you’ve experienced pain, stiffness or swelling in your wrist, then you’ll know these symptoms can make it difficult to go about your daily tasks. You might be wondering whether these are signs of arthritis – and what you can do about it if they are.

In fact, arthritis is a common cause of pain and other symptoms in the wrist. Arthritis in general is widespread in the UK, affecting more than one in six people today. But arthritis is actually more than one condition, and different types of arthritis can affect the wrists differently.

If you think you may be experiencing arthritis in the wrist, then it’s important to take action early and talk to your doctor. Read on to learn more about arthritis, how it can affect your wrists, and what you can do about it.

What types of arthritis could affect the wrist?

The key aspect of most types of arthritis is that they affect the joints, causing pain, stiffness and swelling. However, the specific symptoms and the mechanisms causing these symptoms differ among the different arthritis types, meaning that the treatments also differ.

The two most common types of arthritis, both of which can cause wrist pain, are:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.

We’ll talk about these more further on. Other types of arthritis that might cause wrist pain include:

  • Psoriatic arthritis, which usually (although not always) occurs alongside the skin condition psoriasis
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which affects children and teenagers
  • Gout, which typically affects the feet but in rare cases can cause symptoms in the wrist.

And lastly, some types of arthritis that aren’t known for wrist symptoms are:

  • Cervical spondylosis, which typically affects the neck
  • Ankylosing spondylitis, which typically affects the spine.

What does osteoarthritis in the wrist feel like?

As a place where bones meet, a joint needs flexible, protective cartilage to prevent the bones from painfully rubbing together when the joint moves. In osteoarthritis of the wrist, that cartilage stops protecting the bone effectively, resulting in:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness or difficulty using the wrists.

Symptoms may also include:

  • Signs of inflammation like swelling, redness and tenderness
  • A cracking or grating sound or feeling within the joint when it is moved.

While we don’t know why some people develop osteoarthritis and others don’t, it is most common in people aged over 45. As such, it seems to result from wear and tear due to time, hard usage or other damage to the joint. For this reason, osteoarthritis is by far the most common type of arthritis in the UK.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms in your wrist, then you should consult your doctor – you could have osteoarthritis or another medical condition that needs treatment.

You may find that stiffness and pain in the wrists and other joints means that you need a little more assistance around your home. An unobtrusive personal alarm watch with a family and friends app can help your loved ones coordinate your care while also offering you enhanced safety and peace of mind.

What does rheumatoid arthritis in the wrist feel like?

Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is caused by the body’s own immune system attacking the joints. The longer the condition goes untreated, the more the joints can be damaged by these attacks – so it’s essential to consult your GP right away if you think you might have rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis in the wrists is characterised by inflammation, which can cause:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness or weakness
  • Warmth or redness.

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs much less frequently than osteoarthritis overall. However, both conditions are more prevalent in women, with rheumatoid arthritis occurring three times more often in women than in men.

If you’re finding it difficult to use your hands and wrists, it may be wise to get a personal alarm that can call your family or friends at the touch of a button. That way, there’s no need to rely on finding, picking up and using a phone in an emergency.

How do osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in the wrist feel different?

One difference is that rheumatoid arthritis can have “flare-up” periods during which the symptoms are worse. Other distinct features of rheumatoid arthritis are that it may cause significant stiffness in joints for a long time in the morning and that it usually occurs symmetrically – so you’d have symptoms in both wrists.

Because rheumatoid arthritis involves an immune response, it can also cause its patients to feel generally unwell because their bodies think they are under attack.

In contrast, grating or crackling in the wrist is typical of osteoarthritis.

What do other types of arthritis feel like in the wrist?

Gout, which is typically thought of as affecting the big toe and feet, can affect any joint, potentially causing intense pain and inflammation manifesting as heat or redness.

Psoriatic arthritis is a suspect for wrist pain if you have the skin condition psoriasis, in which areas of your skin become flaky and scaly. However, in rare cases psoriatic arthritis can occur with no visible psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis in the wrists can manifest as stiffness, swelling, and pain.

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is a term describing further sub-types of arthritis, all of which are marked by onset in patients who haven’t reached adulthood yet. Like rheumatoid arthritis, these are autoimmune conditions. As well as the usual arthritis symptoms of pain, swelling, warmth or redness around the joints, juvenile idiopathic arthritic may feature autoimmune symptoms like tiredness or fever. If a patient has joint pain and is a child or teenager, their doctor may explore juvenile idiopathic arthritis as a cause.

What other conditions cause wrist pain?

Of course, there are also several other common conditions that can cause pain, swelling or stiffness in the wrist, and these would need to be ruled out before an arthritis diagnosis. They include:

  • Tendonitis
  • A sprained or broken wrist, which may have bruising
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome, which usually occurs with numbness or tingling. However, these symptoms can sometimes also result from arthritis.

It’s best to see medical help if:

  • You have any of the symptoms we’ve mentioned.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You’re losing sensation in your wrist or hand.
  • Your wrist isn’t its usual shape.
  • You have a higher temperature than usual.

See the NHS advice page on wrist pain for more.

What treatments can help osteoarthritis in the wrist?

Because osteoarthritis results from a physical lack of cartilage in the joint, there are no medicines that can reverse the damage. If you have osteoarthritis in your wrist, your doctor will likely advise you first to make lifestyle changes such as avoiding movements that cause stress to your wrists. For example, you might use a tool to help you open jars without twisting them hard, or you could change the handles on your doors from knobs to levers so that turning them is easier and less painful.

However, don’t try to give up moving your wrist entirely. Gentle, appropriate exercise is important to help you retain muscle in your wrist and prevent increased stiffness. It’s best to consult with a medical professional about ways you should and shouldn’t move your wrist.

For early osteoarthritis, hot or cold packs for pain and wrist supports such as splints are treatments that some patients find helpful. One treatment for more severe osteoarthritis is pain relieving medicine. Other treatments include steroid injections, a topical cream and, in rare cases, surgery.

What treatments can help rheumatoid arthritis in the wrist?

Rheumatoid arthritis is often treated with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, or DMARDs. These reduce the harm resulting from the immune system’s attacks on the joints. Therefore, they help symptoms as well as preventing the underlying damage from worsening as rapidly as it might without treatment.

Other treatments include biological medicines, which are injected. These work by actually reducing the immune system’s attacks on the joints.

Like osteoarthritis patients, rheumatoid arthritis patients may also benefit from hot or cold packs, wrist splints and painkillers as well as steroid injections and surgery for more severe cases.

Also similar to osteoarthritis patients, rheumatoid arthritis patients should avoid movements that are hard on the wrists, but they often benefit from specific exercises that help keep up the strength in the wrist. Talk to your GP to find out more and see if you could be referred for physiotherapy or occupational therapy.

What treatments can help other forms of arthritis in the wrist?

As juvenile idiopathic arthritis actually describes a range of conditions, it also has varying treatments. Medicines include the ones we’ve seen for rheumatoid arthritis – DMARDs, biological medicines and pain relievers. These treatments can also be used for psoriatic arthritis.

Gout is unlike the other forms of arthritis we’ve discussed because it’s caused by a build-up of uric acid in the body. It can be managed through changes in diet as well as with steroids or painkillers that reduce inflammation.

Ensuring peace of mind with a SureSafe alarm

While there is no cure for any type of arthritis, one thing you can do to improve your overall health is to reduce any stress or anxiety you might feel when you’re going about your day. A talking pendant alarm can help you feel relaxed and confident that if you ever need help right away, it will be there – no matter where you are in your home.

Arthritis in the wrist may also be accompanied by symptoms in the feet or legs, which can affect your stability or make it more difficult to move around. An automatic fall detection alarm can give you the security of knowing that if you were to fall or even lose consciousness, help would always be on the way.

A leader in personal alarms, SureSafe provides these cutting-edge, user-friendly devices and many others with a variety of features to protect you and let you continue doing the things you love. To learn more about what SureSafe alarms can offer, including 24/7 monitoring and GPS tracking to keep you safe while you’re out and about, give our expert team a call on 0800 112 3201. You can also request a call back or use live chat to get in touch.

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