Arthritis, a degenerative disease that affects the cartilage lining bones where they meet at a joint, often affects the hand and wrist. It affects approximately 60% of people over the age of 60, and up to 90% of people over the age of 75.
The wrist joint can be affected by either rheumatoid arthritis (an inflammatory autoimmune condition that can affect areas other than the joints) and osteoarthritis (sometimes referred to as “wear and tear”, since the cartilage and other joint tissue are worn down through age and use). While rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, osteoarthritis is more common in older people, whose joints have naturally experienced more stress and use throughout their lives. Prior injuries such as broken bones also put people at increased risk for osteoarthritis, so a previously-broken wrist or hand can increase your chances of wrist arthritis down the line.
It’s natural for our bodies to slow as we get older, and our muscles to become weaker; but one of the first signs of arthritis in the wrist is difficulty with gripping motions – this may make it harder to open a jar or grab hold of something. While hand exercises, medication, and other treatment suggested by your doctor can help keep the wrist strong and minimize pain, there are tools on the market that allow the caps on jars and medication bottles to open more easily; these can be used to limit the strain on your wrist. Dietary changes may also become increasingly necessary as you get older, as they can help reduce inflammation (along with appropriate medication). Wrists that are so damaged as to be debilitating may require surgery at some point.
As we age, our bodies become less efficient at healing themselves, and pain can be more difficult to manage. Osteoarthritis is degenerative, so catching it early can be extremely helpful in limiting the painful symptoms and loss of mobility that can severely affect daily life as the disease progresses with age. Consult your doctor at the first signs of weakening, inflammation, or pain in your wrist and hands.
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