What is Thumb / Basal Joint Arthritis?
- Osteoarthritis or “wear and tear” arthritis describes the progressive deterioration of joint cartilage. Thumb arthritis is the second most common arthritis type, also known as basal joint arthritis. A normal joint has smooth cartilage covers on the ends of the bones, allowing them to glide easily in the joint, with Osteoarthritis occurring when the cartilage begins wearing away.
What causes Thumb / Basal Joint Arthritis?
- Thumb Arthritis most commonly develops after 40 years of age and patients can be genetically predisposed. It’s more common in women than men, although anyone can be predisposed with past trauma to the joint, particularly fractures and dislocations.
What are the symptoms of Thumb Arthritis?
- Most symptoms of thumb arthritis will be noticed while using the thumb, especially during pinching, grasping, or gripping motions. If you have trouble turning keys, snapping your fingers, opening jars, or you notice an decrease in hand functionality you may be experiencing symptoms of thumb arthritis. Swelling, stiffness, and prolonged discomfort/pain after continued use is expected at the base of the thumb. As arthritis progresses, weakness and limited range of motion increases, with bone spurs developing if left untreated. Bone spurs can result in an enlarged appearance of joints beneath the skin.
How is Thumb / Basal Joint Arthritis treated?
- Depending on the severity of the arthritis’ progression, earlier stages typically respond to nonsurgical treatments like NSAIDs (nonsteroidalal anti-inflammatories), heat or ice treatment, bracing, hand exercises, and steroidal injections into the basal joint. There are currently no medications that prevent the progression of arthritis. Surgery can involve removing part or all of a bone in the thumb joint (trapezium) or cushioning or suspending the joint. Fusing the joint’s two bones is also a surgical option although it may limit joint movement. Complete recovery can be from 8 weeks to a year, with symptoms sometimes persisting in more severe cases.