Wrist pain is one of the top reasons that prompts patients to see a hand surgeon. A hand specialist does far more than just operate; they diagnose and provide treatment of painful conditions of the hands, arms, and wrists as well. When wrist pain starts to interfere with daily life, work, or recreation, sufferers seek diagnosis and relief so that they may return to doing the things they love. There are multiple reasons for having a painful wrist and some of the most common conditions seen by doctors include ganglion cysts, arthritis, and disease processes involving tendons, nerves, or blood flow.
Wrist Pain and the Ganglion Cyst
A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled cyst that often appears on the front or back side of the wrist. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) describes the cyst as a, “balloon on a stalk.”
While no one knows exactly what causes a ganglion to appear, this lump that protrudes from the joint capsule often doesn’t cause any problems at all. However – as they do tend to increase in size with repetitive motion – the ganglion may become inflamed, press on surrounding nerves, or rupture. In those cases, the wrist pain ranges from mild and achy to intense and bothersome. If the cyst doesn’t protrude to the surface and remains invisible, the sufferer will not even realize that a cyst was the source of the pain.
A hand doctor will provide a physical exam, ask questions, and diagnostic testing such as x-rays or an MRI in order to reach a correct diagnosis. Treatment can include anything from temporary bracing to aspiration to surgical removal when necessary,
Arthritis and the Painful Wrist
While the Arthritis Foundation indicates that there are more than 100 different types of arthritis in humans, two of the most common that lead to wrist pain are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a common condition in people over 40. Due to use of a joint, age, injury, or genetics, the smooth cartridge that protects the joints when they move begins to wear away. This eventually leads to pain and inflammation. Hand specialists diagnose through an exam and radiological testing. Treatment can include lifestyle changes, bracing, steroid injections, or even surgery to remove or fuse the arthritic bone and structures.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is thought to be an autoimmune condition that – among other symptoms – causes joint pain and swelling. While the exam and testing is similar to that of osteoarthritis, a doctor may also order additional bloodwork to look for certain antibodies. Many cases of RA are managed through supporting the painful joint and medications.
Disease Processes and Hand Surgery
Other disease processes may play a part in wrist pain or swelling. A condition called de Quervain’s disease is a very painful inflammation of the tendons running from the thumb to the wrist. It is diagnosed through a clinical exam. Bracing is the first line of defense, but severe cases sometimes need hand surgery.
Another condition called Kienböck’s disease happens when blood flow is limited or cut off to one of the bones in the wrist. Eventually, the bone becomes brittle and fractures easily. It may require surgery to remove the deceased bone.
If you have wrist pain and need to see a hand doctor, please contact us today. Diagnosis and treatment for your pain is available.