Commonly Diagnosed Wrist Conditions

The wrist is a joint between the forearm and hand, formed by the ulna and radius (the forearm bones) and eight small bones called the carpal bones. Here are commonly diagnosed wrist conditions that affect this joint. 

1) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The carpal tunnel is a passageway where nerves, blood vessels, and ligaments travel from the forearm to the hand. This tunnel is on the underside of the wrist (the same side as the palm.)

One of the nerves that run through the carpal tunnel is the median nerve, which supplies function and sensation to the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and the inner edge of the ring finger. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the inner lining of the tunnel becomes swollen or inflamed and puts excess pressure on the median nerve. This causes numbness, tingling, and aching in the hand and fingers.

In some cases, carpal tunnel syndrome resolves with a wrist splint, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications. In more severe cases, surgery is required to alleviate the pressure on the median nerve.

2) Wrist Fracture

The wrist is a common site for a wrist injury. In fact, wrist fractures account for 25% of all broken bones. The most common mechanism for this injury is falling onto an outstretched hand, with the heel of the hand and the wrist absorbing the impact of the fall.

Patients with nondisplaced wrist fractures, where the edges of the fractured bone are aligned, are typically placed in a cast for 4-6 weeks to allow the fracture to heal.

Patients with displaced or complicated fractures often undergo surgery to repair and realign the bone. This is also a common injury that can happen far away from medical care so it’s important to know how to immobilize and stabilize the fracture.

3) DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis

More than 200,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with a painful wrist condition called DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis every year. This condition occurs when the tendons that run along the thumb side of the wrist become inflamed, often from repetitive movement of the wrist and thumb.

This condition often resolves with a splint that minimizes wrist and thumb motion, as well as ice and anti-inflammatory medications. In rare cases, patients with DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis require surgery.

4) Scaphoid Fracture

A scaphoid fracture, sometimes called a navicular fracture, is a specific type of wrist injury that can be especially problematic if it’s not diagnosed early and treated appropriately. The scaphoid bone sits along the thumb side of the wrist. Because it has a limited blood supply, if the scaphoid bone is fractured, parts of the bone might not get adequate blood supply, and the fracture may fail to heal.

Specific x-ray views, as well as advanced imaging like a CT scan or MRI, are often used to detect these fractures.

5) Ganglion Cyst

Ganglion cysts form when fluid leaks out of the wrist joint or tendon sheath and collects in a small, fluid-filled cyst. Patients often notice a painless, round lump on the top side of their wrist that appears more prominent when they flex their wrist (point their fingers toward the floor).

In most cases, ganglion cysts are harmless. But if they become large or cause discomfort, the fluid in them can be aspirated, or they can be surgically removed. Tendons can also be affected in other parts of the body like the knee causing patellar tendonitis.


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Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant