How does arthritis cause wrist pain?

Arthritis is a disease that causes swelling, stiffness, and pain in a joint. These symptoms, which can affect the wrist, are often called “inflammation.”

The different kinds of arthritis include the following:

  • Osteoarthritis is the most common kind of arthritis, and is caused by wear and tear. (It is also called degenerative arthritis.) Osteoarthritis is most common in older people, but it also runs in families, and people who inherit it might get it at a younger age. Injuries to the wrist, being overweight, and jobs or sports in which you use your wrist more often can also lead to osteoarthritis. If you live into your 70s, you will probably have symptoms of osteoarthritis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the immune system that can affect many joints, and often begins in the hands and wrists. It usually starts at a younger age than osteoarthritis and is more common in women. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is thought to be autoimmune (the immune system attacks the body).
  • Gout is a kind of arthritis that occurs when your body produces too much uric acid, a natural chemical. Uric acid can also be produced by food and drink, including red meat and beer. Gout is more common in the knees, ankles and toes, but it can affect wrists, too.

How does carpal tunnel syndrome cause wrist pain?

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when there is too much pressure on the median nerve that controls feeling for parts of your hand. That nerve, and nine tendons that are responsible for bending your fingers and thumb, run from the wrist into the hand through a narrow opening called the carpal tunnel.

Some people are born with an unusually narrow carpal tunnel. Other causes include swelling caused by injury, and repetitive hand and wrist actions (sometimes job-related) that irritate the tendons and cause them to swell, making less room for the nerve.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/07/2017.

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