Posttraumatic arthritis can develop after an injury, such as a broken wrist bone or a torn ligament. This trauma can cause a direct injury to the cartilage or a delayed wearing of the cartilage due to a change in the way the bones move together—such as after a ligament tear.
Posttraumatic arthritis can develop over many years from the initial injury. Despite proper treatment, an injured joint is more likely to become arthritic over time.
Not all patients with arthritis will experience symptoms. When they do occur, the severity varies greatly from patient to patient. For some patients, the symptoms are not constant—but may come and go depending on their level of activity and other factors.
Symptoms of arthritis may include:
- Reduced range of motion or stiffness
- Weakness in the joint
Your doctor will talk with you about your overall health and medical history and ask you to describe your symptoms. He or she will perform a careful examination of your hand and wrist, looking for:
- Reduced range of motion
- Any areas of pain or tenderness
- Joint instability
- Swelling or other changes in appearance
During the examination, your doctor may also evaluate:
- Finger and thumb mobility—To determine how well your tendons and joints are functioning
- Nerve function—To determine if you have another condition that may be affecting your wrist, such as carpal tunnel syndrome (nerve compression)
X-rays. X-rays provide detailed images of dense structures, such as bone. X-rays of your wrist will help your doctor learn more about the exact location and severity of your arthritis. They can also help your doctor distinguish between various types of arthritis.
Blood tests. Your doctor may recommend blood tests to determine which type of arthritis you have. With rheumatoid and other types of inflammatory arthritis, blood tests are important for an accurate diagnosis. Osteoarthritis is not associated with blood abnormalities.