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Arthritis / osteoarthritis

What is hand and wrist arthritis?

Arthritis can affect the wrists and hands, particularly at the base of the thumb joint. The condition develops when the cartilage that cushions the joints starts to wear away, causing the bones to rub together.

The result is pain, swelling and a loss of movement. Wrist and thumb arthritis becomes more common as we age, although people of any age can be affected.

What causes hand and wrist arthritis?

  • One of the most common causes of wrist arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis, which is a disease that affects the entire body. It causes inflammation in the joints that can become so severe that it destroys cartilage and bone. Wrist arthritis can also be due to a previous injury of the wrist. If a wrist fracture extends into the surface of the joint, the normally smooth cartilage can become uneven and prone to arthritis. Injuries to the small bones and ligaments in the hand and wrist can affect normal movement or lead to instability and wearing away of the cartilage.
  • Thumb arthritis affects the carpometacarpal joint, which is where the metacarpal bone attaches to the trapezium (carpal) bone of the wrist. It is also common with ageing and can be linked to obesity. Like wrist arthritis, it can develop as the result of a previous injury to the thumb joint and it may be linked to certain hereditary conditions such as joint ligament laxity. As arthritis progresses in the base of the thumb, extra bone spurs develop and the ligaments become lax resulting in deformity, pain and loss of strength and function. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the carpometacarpal joint, although osteoarthritis is the most common cause.

Hand and wrist arthritis

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