Many forms of arthritis and related conditions that affect the joints, muscles, and/or bones can cause problems like pain, stiffness, and swelling in the wrist and fingers. Other conditions can cause additional problems, such as numbness and tingling, pitted nails, painful ulcers, or thickened skin that makes bending the fingers difficult. Spine Center of Texas has prepared a list of the most common disease-related problems that affect the hands and wrists.
- Osteoarthritis – The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones where they meet to form joints. This breakdown causes the bones to rub against each other, causing stiffness, pain, and loss of movement in the joint.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis – Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints that occurs when the body’s immune system – which normally protects us from infection – mistakenly attacks the synovium, the thin membrane that lines the joints. The result can be joint damage, pain, swelling, inflammation, loss of function, and disability. Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the wrist and finger joints and can cause deformities that make it difficult to use the hands.
- Juvenile Arthritis – Juvenile arthritis is the term used to describe arthritis when it begins before age 16. There are several different types of juvenile arthritis that can cause pain and swelling in the wrist and joints of the hands.
- Gout – Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs when excess uric acid, a bodily waste product circulating in the bloodstream, is deposited as needle-shaped monosodium urate crystals in tissues of the body, including the joints. For many people, the first symptom of gout is excruciating pain and swelling in the big toe – often following a trauma, such as an illness or injury. Subsequent attacks may occur off and on in other joints, including the wrist and joints of the fingers. After years with the disease, lumps of uric acid, called tophi, may form beneath the skin of the hands.
- Osteoporosis – Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones lose enough mass that they become brittle and prone to breaking with slight trauma. The bones of the wrist are among those most commonly fractured in people with osteoporosis. The condition can occur with aging, inflammatory disease (such as rheumatoid arthritis), inactivity, a low-calcium diet, or use of corticosteroid medications.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – This condition occurs when the median nerve, a nerve that runs from the forearm into the hand and supplies sensation to the palm and thumb side of the hand, becomes compressed within the carpal tunnel in the wrist. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway formed by bones and a ligament, through which the median nerve and several tendons run. If there is swelling within the tunnel, the nerve can become compressed, resulting in pain, weakness, and/or numbness in the hand and wrist. These symptoms usually radiate up the arm.