You know how much you depend on your thumbs, and so it becomes important to deal quickly with any mobility issues that impair movement of this vital limb. However, many people do not notice the slow progress of arthritis in their thumbs, and so it becomes necessary to work with a hand doctor, should it develop to the point where movement, flexibility, and function are impaired.
To begin with, arthritis in the base of the thumb is a bit more complicated because it often strikes the CMC joint or the thumb basal joint. This is a joint that lets your thumb enjoy that amazing range of motion that tends to make it such an essential digit. Without it, you cannot form “pincers”, make a fist, and/or grip tightly.
Diagnosing and Treating Arthritis of the Thumb
How can you know that it is arthritis developing at the base of the thumb and not something else? First of all, more women develop this type of arthritis than men, and it is more common in people over the age of 40. It can present after injury to the joint – including a dislocation as well as a fracture.
One of the first signs is not, as many suspect, stiffness but is instead pain at the base of the thumb. Generally, pain is encountered after use of the thumb in everyday movements such as turning doorknobs, writing, or opening a jar. The pain tends to progressively increase, even when the hand is at rest.
If allowed to develop, it can often move the metacarpal bone out of joint, leading to a bump developing at the base of the thumb. This is immediately followed by a weakening of the grip and a loss of range of motion. Hyperextension of the joint above the thumb joint also commonly occurs as arthritis worsens.
At the first signs of this condition it is important to get in touch with a hand doctor. They will take your medical history and perform a basic examination that often identifies the condition. Confirmation may be done through an x-ray of the hand, as well, though this may only provide confirmation of the worst cases.
Treatment is then chosen based on the extent of the condition. Less serious cases are often treated with some splinting and therapeutic exercises meant to help retain the strength in the hand. Medications or steroid injections can also help with inflammation, and day or evening splinting is not unusual.
Those whose arthritis of the thumb cannot be addressed with non-surgical remedies will often need to be considered for surgical treatments. The main focus of any procedure is to eliminate pain while also reconstructing the joint for functionality. There are several ways this can be done, and it is important to speak with your hand surgeon about your lifestyle and needs before choosing the most appropriate surgical remedy.
The good news is that the faster you act when you suspect arthritis in the thumb, the better your outcome. Consult your hand doctor immediately and get this condition treated quickly for the best results.