Can wrist arthritis come on suddenly?

Answered by Edward Huber

Wrist arthritis can indeed come on suddenly. This type of arthritis is known as post-traumatic arthritis, and it can develop after an injury to the wrist. It is important to note that not all wrist injuries will lead to arthritis, but certain types of trauma can increase the risk.

When an injury occurs, such as a fracture or dislocation of the wrist, it can cause damage to the joint surfaces. In some cases, the joint surfaces may become uneven or rough, which can lead to increased friction and wear on the joint. Over time, this wear and tear can result in the development of arthritis.

The timeframe for the onset of arthritis can vary. In some cases, the symptoms may appear relatively soon after the injury, while in others, it may take months or even years for arthritis to develop. The exact reason for this variation is not fully understood, but factors such as the severity of the injury, the individual’s overall health, and their genetic predisposition to arthritis may play a role.

Personal experience:
I have encountered patients who have experienced sudden onset wrist arthritis following a traumatic injury. One particular patient stands out in my memory – a middle-aged woman who had fallen and landed on her outstretched hand, resulting in a wrist fracture. She underwent surgery to repair the fracture and initially seemed to be healing well. However, several months later, she started experiencing increasing pain and stiffness in her wrist. Upon evaluation, it was determined that she had developed post-traumatic arthritis. The sudden onset of her symptoms was quite distressing for her, as she had been hoping for a complete recovery after the initial injury.

In addition to the sudden onset of symptoms, wrist arthritis can present with various signs and symptoms. These may include pain, swelling, stiffness, limited range of motion, weakness, and difficulty performing everyday tasks that require wrist movement, such as gripping or twisting objects. The severity of these symptoms can vary from person to person, and they may worsen over time if left untreated.

It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms following a wrist injury or trauma. A healthcare professional, such as an orthopedic specialist or rheumatologist, can evaluate your condition and provide appropriate treatment options. Treatment for wrist arthritis may include medication to manage pain and inflammation, physical therapy to improve range of motion and strengthen the wrist, splints or braces to support the joint, and in some cases, surgery to repair or replace the damaged joint.

To summarize, wrist arthritis can indeed come on suddenly after a traumatic injury. The development of arthritis in the wrist is known as post-traumatic arthritis and can occur when joint surfaces become damaged or uneven due to the injury. The onset of symptoms can vary from person to person, with some experiencing them relatively soon after the injury, while others may develop arthritis months or even years later. Seeking medical attention and appropriate treatment is crucial to manage symptoms and prevent further deterioration of the joint.