Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms in Wrists

By Christine Lehman

  • Overview

    Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms in Wrists
    Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system recognizes its own cells as foreign and begins to attack them. This leads to degeneration of the joints and subsequent swelling, stiffness, redness and in some cases joint deformity. Because there are so many small bones in the wrist, the wrist is especially vulnerable to the effects of this disease.
  • Symptoms

    Signs of rheumatoid arthritis in the wrist (in addition to the pain, stiffness and swelling) include the presence of a lump on the back of the hand that moves with the tendons, a creaking sound when the hand opens and closes, tingling in the fingers (caused by nerve compression), and weakness or instability in the wrist. Patients may also suffer from limited motion due to the inflammation.
  • Effects

    Rheumatoid arthritis in the wrist can also begin to affect the knuckle joints, causing them to become swollen and painful too. Because rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease (rather than anything caused by an injury), both wrists are likely be affected symmetrically. The swelling in the wrist bones can also cause the nerve that runs through the wrist and up the arm to swell and cause carpal tunnel syndrome.


  • Treatment

    People with rheumatoid arthritis in their wrists can find relief in heat applications, anti-inflammatory drugs, cortisone injections, and wrist splints. Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers can also modify their lifestyle to include fewer motions and less lifting, which can lessen the pain over time.
  • Considerations

    Surgery can also be an option for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis in their wrists. Wrist bones can be fused together, which limits the motion of the joint. It is also possible to remove some of the smaller bones in the wrist, which preserves the motion. Wrist replacement surgeries, using metal or plastic parts, are also becoming more common but are still relatively new and not very predictable.
  • Additional side effects

    Along with the bones in the wrist being affected, the connective tissue within the wrist can also be impacted by rheumatoid arthritis. When tendons are no longer able to stabilize the wrist, the wrist may become twisted and malformed.
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