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How Psoriatic Arthritis Affects the Wrists

Posted on February 25, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D.
Article written by
Victoria Menard

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) can affect any one joint or several joints in the body. In some people, psoriatic arthritis affects the wrist joints, causing them to become stiff, swollen, and painful. Aside from being uncomfortable, PsA in the wrists can affect your ability to perform everyday tasks.

Psoriatic arthritis is a form of chronic inflammatory arthritis that causes swelling, stiffness, and pain in the joints. PsA is an autoimmune disease — it occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its healthy tissues.

There are several treatments for managing the inflammation and pain of PsA in the wrists. A rheumatologist can help you identify the symptoms of PsA in your wrist joints and prescribe or recommend the right treatments for you.

What Does PsA in the Wrists Feel Like?

MyPsoriasisTeam members often talk about their psoriatic arthritis symptoms. Some share what it’s like to have PsA affect their wrists.

As one member wrote, they experience “aching pain” in their wrists (as well as their elbows, finger joints, and ankles) due to their PsA. Another member similarly shared that they sometimes “can’t stand” the pain in their wrists and finger joints.

Some MyPsoriasisTeam members find that their PsA-related wrist pain worsens in different situations. One described experiencing a flare as the result of physical exertion: “I had a flare-up of my arthritis on my wrists today — I’ve been working too hard, I think.”

Other MyPsoriasisTeam members experience worsened PsA symptoms depending on the weather. As one member said, “I dislike cold weather. My knees and arms, as well as my wrists and hands, hurt bad. Flare-ups also occur more when it’s cold, but I’m seeing more of a flare-up on my wrists and arms.”

However, as another member shared, heat and humidity can also affect the symptoms of PsA: “It’s blistering hot today, and the humidity triggered a flare-up in my wrists. When I woke up, my wrists and other joints were so painful.”

Impacts of Psoriatic Arthritis in the Wrists

As with PsA in any joint, the symptoms of PsA in the wrists can be mild and develop slowly or be severe and sudden. These symptoms can have many different impacts on daily life.

Peripheral Arthritis

In addition to stiffness, swelling, and pain in the wrist joints, PsA can lead to peripheral arthritis — a form of arthritis that tends to affect larger joints, including the knees, elbows, ankles, and wrists.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, peripheral arthritis is common in people with PsA. Peripheral arthritis may cause discomfort that migrates from one joint to another and, if left untreated, can cause pain lasting from a few days to several weeks.

Impact on Daily Tasks

Having painful, swollen, or stiff wrist joints can affect your ability to use the joints in daily tasks.

As one MyPsoriasisTeam member shared, “I cannot pick up anything. My wrists cannot take any weight.” Another wrote that, although they experienced hip and leg pain the previous day, their PsA symptoms now affected their wrists, making it “hard to type this morning.”

As another member described, arthritis can have long-term impacts on your joints’ mobility: “I also have arthritis in my wrists,” they wrote, “and I can’t turn the right wrist anymore.”

Treating and Managing PsA in the Wrists

Regardless of where your PsA symptoms are located, treatment for psoriatic arthritis usually aims to reduce inflammation and relieve joint discomfort.

Let your health care provider know if you experience any symptoms of psoriatic arthritis in one or both wrists. Studies have shown that delaying diagnosis or medical treatment by just six months after first noticing PsA symptoms can affect the treatment’s effectiveness.

Diagnosing PsA may involve X-rays or blood tests. After your doctor has identified psoriatic arthritis as the cause of your wrist symptoms, they will work with you to find the right treatment or combination of treatments. There is no specific blood test for PsA, but blood tests can be used to:

  • Assess for other forms of inflammatory arthritis
  • Evaluate markers in the blood that are seen with inflammation
  • Determine if medications will be safe for an individual patient

Your health care provider or a rheumatology expert may prescribe or recommend the following treatments for your PsA-related wrist symptoms.

Medications

One of the main goals of treating PsA with medication is to reduce and control inflammation. This helps reduce joint pain and prevent long-term joint damage from occurring.

There are several medications that may be used to manage PsA in the wrists.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation caused by psoriatic arthritis.

Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter NSAIDs, like Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen), for mild to moderate symptoms, or prescribe stronger options for more severe discomfort.

Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs

Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which include Otrexup (methotrexate) and Arava (leflunomide), work by reducing inflammation and slowing down the progression of PsA. Older, conventional DMARDs prescribed for psoriatic arthritis include Trexall (methotrexate), Sulfasalazine, Arava (leflunomide), and cyclosporine. Newer DMARDs, such as Xeljanz (tofacitinib) and Otezla (apremilast), work by interfering with specific aspects of the immune system involved in inflammation.

If conventional DMARDs aren’t successful in treating your PsA, your doctor may prescribe a certain type of DMARD known as a biologic. Biologic therapies don’t take effect immediately — they may take up to three months to start having a noticeable effect on the symptoms of PsA. Some biologics prescribed for PsA include Humira (adalimumab), Enbrel (etanercept), Stelara (ustekinumab), and Cosentyx (secukinumab).

Visit Treatments for Psoriatic Arthritis to learn more about specific DMARDs and biologic DMARDs used for PsA.

Steroid Injections

Steroid injections, which are administered directly into the affected joints, quickly reduce inflammation and ease wrist discomfort. These injections may even help prevent symptoms for months at a time.

As always, talk to your doctor about the benefits and potential side effects associated with steroid injections.

Physical and Occupational Therapy

Physical therapy can help you maintain the use of your wrists while managing PsA-related pain and stiffness. A licensed physical therapist will work with you to assess your mobility and movements and address your unique needs.

Occupational therapists provide alternative ways of performing daily activities to reduce joint pain and strain. They will also work with you to determine whether you can use adaptive equipment or change items in your environment to help reduce stress on your joints. For example, replacing round doorknobs or faucet handles with lever-style handles may be helpful.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and PsA and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 88,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis and PsA.

Are you living with psoriatic arthritis that affects your wrists? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D. is an internal medicine and rheumatology specialist. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Victoria Menard is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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