1. What is it?
Arthritis in itself is a condition that irritates or destroys one or more of your joints. A joint is a structure where two bones connect. There are several types of arthritis, but the one that most often affects the thumb joint is called: osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by the natural wear and tear of the joints over time. When a person develops thumb osteoarthritis, the joint cushion that allows for the thumb bones to move without rubbing against each other wears away and causes pain and discomfort.
2. What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of thumb arthritis are:
- Pain at the base of the thumb, especially when gripping or using the thumb to apply force.
- Swelling and tenderness at the base of the thumb.
- Stiffness and decreased range of motion of the thumb.
- Development of a bony, enlarged prominence over the joint.
3. Who does it affect?
People with the following characteristics are more prone to develop thumb arthritis:
- People 40 years old or older
- People with hereditary conditions, such as malformed joints
- People who have previously injured their thumb joint
- People who perform certain activities that put high stress on the thumb joint on a regular basis
- People who have certain diseases that change the normal function of cartilage, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
4. How do I treat it?
Arthritis is a progressive, degenerative disease so the treatment depends on the stage of progress of the disease. In the early stages, non-surgical methods such as icing the joint several times a day, taking anti-inflammatory medication, and wearing a supportive splint can help treat the symptoms.
When simple remedies such as the ones mentioned above do not relieve the symptoms anymore, the next stage of treatment are steroid injections directly into the joint. These injections provide relief for months at a time, however thay cannot be used indefinitely.
When non-surgical treatment stops being effective surgery is the next option. The surgery to remedy thumb arthritis is performed on an outpatient basis and there are several methods that can be used. A hand surgery specialist will be able to tell you which is the best surgery option for you.