Symptoms A-Z

Swollen Wrist Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

A swollen wrist is usually a symptom after a traumatic injury, including wrist sprains, bruising, or bone fractures. Other causes of swelling in the wrist can arise from overuse or arthritis which is caused by inflammation of the joints. Read below for more information on causes and treatment options.

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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 [1]. However, wrist swelling can also be the result of chronic issues [2]. For example, stress from repetitive activities such as knitting and typing can result in swelling.

Common accompanying symptoms of a swollen wrist

If you're experiencing wrist swelling, you may also experience the following symptoms.

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

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 appointment 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 [3].

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 [4].
  • Cysts: Cysts are sacs filled with fluid, air or other material that can form in any part of the body [5]. The body recognizes these fluid-filled structures as foreign and the body often mounts a reparative response that results in swelling around the cyst.

7 Possible Swollen Wrist Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced swollen wrist. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Wrist sprain

Wrist sprain is often associated with traumatic events such as falls or sporting accidents. However, wrist sprain can also stem from chronic issues such as repetitive stress and the normal aging process. The wrists are so necessary and used so frequently that sometimes it may be difficult to differe...

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.

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

Repetitive strain injury of the upper arm

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

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

Swollen Wrist Symptom Checker

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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.

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

Rheumatoid arthritis

Arthritis is a general term for multiple conditions that cause painful inflammation and stiffness throughout the body. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic condition that is autoimmune in nature, meaning that the body's immune system which normally protects the body by att...

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a condition which causes inflammation of the joints. In most circumstances, psoriatic arthritis presents between the ages of 30 and 50 years and occurs after the manifestation of the symptoms of psoriasis, which is a disease of the skin. Psoriatic arthritis...

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.

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

At-home treatment and prevention

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.

When to see a doctor

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.
  • Casts or splints: 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).

When it is an emergency

Seek immediate care if:

  • The swelling or pain become severe
  • You believe have suffered a serious wrist injury: Such as from a car accident or fall
  • You show signs of infection: Such as a fever, feelings of nausea, or you vomit
  • You lose feeling in your hand or arm for a prolonged period

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Swollen Wrist

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

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

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your swollen wrist

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 were most often matched with:

  • 66% Wrist Sprain
  • 16% Contusion Of The Wrist
  • 16% Repetitive Strain Injury Of The Upper Arm

People who have experienced swollen wrist had symptoms persist for:

  • 32% Less than a week
  • 27% Less than a day
  • 23% Over a month

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Swollen Wrist Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your swollen wrist

References

  1. Broken wrist (wrist fracture). UW Medicine. UW Medicine Link
  2. Vorvick LJ. Wrist pain. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated December 6, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
  3. Diagnosing wrist & hand repetitive use injuries. NYU Langone Health. NYU Langone Health Link
  4. Arthritis of the Wrist. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: OrthoInfo. Reviewed April 2016. OrthoInfo Link
  5. Meena S, Gupta A. Dorsal wrist ganglion: Current review of literature. J Clin Orthop Trauma. 2014;5(2):59-64. NCBI Link

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.