Read below about swollen wrist, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your swollen wrist from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Swollen Wrist Symptoms

Swelling is the result of fluid buildup that gets trapped in your body's tissues. When an area of the body becomes inflamed, injured or damaged the small blood vessels in the body begin to leak fluid. Moreover, the body sends white blood cells to repair the damage, and more fluid follows. As a result, the affected body part enlarges even more.

A swollen wrist is usually the result of wrist injury associated with traumatic events that result in sprains and fractures. However, wrist swelling can also be the result of chronic issues. For example, stress from repetitive activities such as knitting and typing can result in swelling.

Symptoms associated with wrist swelling may include:

Some of these symptoms may occur before the swelling emerges, so it is important to know and be able to identify these signs. As soon as you observe symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor in order to receive appropriate care.

Swollen Wrist Causes Overview

Many factors can lead to wrist swelling. The wrist is a joint with multiple components. Made up of bones, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons, the wrist is susceptible to injury and subsequent swelling in numerous places. See this image for a visual representation.

Any condition that causes stress, overuse or damage to these components can result in wrist pain, injury and swelling. It is essential to make an appoint with your healthcare provider in order to get an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

Traumatic injuries that cause wrist swelling:

Though traumatic events such as motor vehicle accidents can cause obvious injury to the wrist, many other types of injury can result in significant trauma to the wrist.

  • Falls: Falling on an outstretched hand puts direct trauma on the wrist. Bones can easily shift and break, nerves and blood vessels can be pinched and severed, and muscles and ligaments can be torn. Regardless of the exact mechanism, wrist swelling will occur.
  • Sports injuries: Similar to falls, wrist swelling from injuries is a common occurrence in contact sports, such as football and hockey. Furthermore, wrist injury and swelling can occur in sports that may involve falls such as skiing, volleyball or biking.

Positional causes:

  • Positions such as typing and knitting that put direct pressure on the nerves in the wrist can cause chronic stress and injury. These activities may seem benign but when performed often they can lead to wrist injury that can result in chronic swelling.

Causes of wrist inflammation:

Processes that cause inflammation of the components of the wrist, especially the blood vessels and nerves, can cause compression and pressure that results in inevitable swelling and also injury.

  • Arthritis: Arthritis is a general term for multiple conditions that cause painful inflammation and stiffness of the bones and joints. Arthritic processes can affect many parts of the wrist and cause irritation that often leads to injury. Many people with arthritis have multiple joints that are in a constant state of swelling.

  • Cysts: Cysts are sacs filled with fluid, air or other material that can form in any part of the body. The body recognizes these fluid-filled structures as foreign and the body often mounts a reparative response that results in swelling around the cyst.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Swollen Wrist

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced swollen wrist. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Wrist Sprain

    A wrist sprain is an injury to the ligaments in the wrist. A mild sprain involves just stretching of the ligaments while more severe sprains can tear the ligaments.

    2 weeks

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    wrist injury, wrist pain, wrist pain from an injury, swollen wrist, pain in the back of the wrist
    Symptoms that always occur with wrist sprain:
    wrist injury
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Contusion of the Wrist

    A bruise is the damage of the blood vessels that return blood to the heart (the capillaries and veins), which causes pooling of the blood. This explains the blue/purple color of most bruises. Bruises of the wrist are common, often due to minor injuries.

    Bruises tend to begin healing within one week.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    wrist injury, pain in one wrist, wrist pain from an injury, swelling of one wrist, wrist bruise
    Symptoms that always occur with contusion of the wrist:
    wrist injury
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Repetitive Strain Injury of the Upper Arm

    Repetitive strain injury of the upper arm is caused by consistent repetitive use.

    Resolves with rest

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    upper arm pain from overuse, upper arm weakness, upper arm numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with repetitive strain injury of the upper arm:
    upper arm pain from overuse
    Symptoms that never occur with repetitive strain injury of the upper arm:
    upper arm injury, severe upper arm pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

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  4. 4.De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

    De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. If you have de Quervain's tenosynovitis, you will feel pain upon turning your wrist, grasping anything, or making a fist.

    4-6 weeks with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    hand numbness, thumb pain, hand weakness, weakness in one hand, numbness in one hand
    Symptoms that always occur with de quervain's tenosynovitis:
    thumb pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that it is caused by the immune system incorrectly attacking the joints when it shouldn't.

    RA is a chronic disease which requires lifelong control.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, joint pain, muscle aches, daytime sleepiness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Psoriatic Arthritis

    Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. Some people who have psoriasis also get a form of arthritis (inflammation and swelling of joints) called psoriatic arthritis.

    This type of arthritis can be managed with treatment, and permanent damage can be prevented. However, the underlying cause (psoriasis) is currently incurable.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    shoulder pain, lower back pain, joint pain, upper back pain, hip pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Buckle Fracture of Distal Radius

    A buckle fracture of the wrist, also known as a torus fracture, is a condition that are most common in children aged 5-10 years due to the elasticity of their bones. This fracture occurs when force is applied to the radius (one of the two bones of the forearm), causing the bone to split along the growth plate.

    3 weeks in a cast, no need for follow up.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    constant forearm pain, forearm pain from an injury, pain in one forearm, swollen forearm, wrist injury
    Symptoms that always occur with buckle fracture of distal radius:
    forearm pain from an injury, constant forearm pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Swollen Wrist Treatments and Relief

If your wrist swelling symptoms are a result of mal-positioning, try these self-care tips and suggestions to gain relief:

  • Practice ergonomics: If you spend much of your day typing at a keyboard or doing activities that put pressure on the wrist, make time for regular breaks. Keep your wrists in a relaxed neutral position when you type and consider using foam supports and keyboards that decrease wrist tension.
  • Use protective gear during sports activities: Using wrist guards during activities such as snowboarding, rollerblading, gymnastics and tennis can help prevent injury.
  • Hazard-proof the home: Make changes in your home that can help prevent falls. Replace slippery rugs and mats, install handrails in the bathroom or shower, and illuminate spaces in order to prevent accidental trips on objects you may not see in the dark.
  • Apply ice then heat: Putting ice on your wrist will help reduce swelling and any pain. Limit application of ice or heat to 20 minutes at a time. You can do this every couple of hours for relief.

See your doctor promptly if your swelling symptoms are more aligned with those related to serious wrist injury. These symptoms include bruising, shooting pain, numbness and/or tingling. ### Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor may suggest: ###

  • Physical therapy or rehabilitation: Your doctor may prescribe stretching exercises or a physical therapy/rehabilitation program to help you restore range of motion, strength and stability to your wrist. If you have a broken bone, you may need a cast or splint to help hold the fractured pieces together during the healing process. Even if your wrist injury is due to a sprain, you may need to wear a sprint to protect the parts of the wrist as they heal.
  • Non-inflammatory medications: Your doctor may prescribe this type of medication to combat arthritic processes that are causing swelling.
  • Anticonvulsants (anti-seizure medication): Do not be alarmed, your wrist swelling is most likely not the result of seizures. Some anticonvulsant medications are also used to combat nerve pain that can lead to swelling such as gabapentin (Neurontin) or carbamazepine (Tegretol).

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Swollen Wrist

  • Q.Is your swollen area warm and red?
  • Q.Did you just suffer from a high impact injury (e.g., a fall, collision, accident or sports trauma)?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.How would you explain the cause of your wrist pain?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our swollen wrist symptom checker to find out more.

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Swollen Wrist Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced swollen wrist have also experienced:

    • 21% Swollen Forearm
    • 13% Swollen Upper Arm
    • 9% Wrist Pain
  • People who have experienced swollen wrist had symptoms persist for:

    • 32% Less Than a Week
    • 27% Less Than a Day
    • 23% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced swollen wrist were most often matched with:

    • 66% Wrist Sprain
    • 16% Contusion of the Wrist
    • 16% Repetitive Strain Injury of the Upper Arm
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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