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What Is Kienbock's Disease?

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Your bones are not just hardened structures that support the other tissues and organs in your body. They, too, are living tissues that need a regular supply of blood for nourishment and sustainability. Once any blood supply to the bone is ceased, the bone can die. For those suffering from Kienbock’s disease, the blood supply to one of the small bones of the hand near the wrist, also known as the lunate, is interrupted.

While the exact cause of Kienbock’s disease is uncertain, many of those who have it think they are merely experiencing a sprained wrist initially. Perhaps they sustained some sort of trauma to the wrist, such as a fall. A trauma of that kind can disrupt the flow of blood to the wrist.

In most individuals, two vessels supply the blood to the wrist, but some people only have one vessel, thus putting them at an increased risk for developing Kienbock’s disease. As the disease worsens, the patient may notice other symptoms, such as a painful wrist which might be swollen; a limited range of motion or a feeling of stiffness in the wrist; lack of ability to maintain a strong grip in the hand; a tenderness right over the bone, usually on top of the hand near the middle of the wrist; and noticeable pain or trouble with turning the hand upwards.

There are four stages to Kienbock’s disease, and because the disease closely resembles a sprained wrist, it can be a challenge to accurately diagnose. Even X-rays of the wrist can appear normal.

In Stage One, the symptoms are similar to those associated with a sprain of the wrist.

In Stage Two, the lunate, or wrist bone, begins to deteriorate. In this stage, swelling, tenderness, and wrist pain are common.

In Stage Three, the dead bone will begin to collapse and eventually break into smaller pieces. When this occurs, surrounding bones may shift, and the patient may experience increased pain and/or limited motion.

In Stage Four, the surfaces of the adjoining bones are soon affected. A result of this could be arthritis of the wrist.

There is no cure for Kienbock’s disease, but there are some non-surgical and surgical measures that can aid in the treatment of it.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.