Thumb arthritis is usual with aging and occurs when the cartilage wears away from the ends of the bones that form the joints at the base of an individual’s thumb — also called as the Carpometacarpal (CMC) joint.
Thumb arthritis may cause and decreased strength, severe pain, the range of motion, and swelling, making it difficult to do even the very easy tasks, such as opening jars and turning the doorknobs. Treatment usually involves a combination of splints and medicines. Severe thumb arthritis may require surgery.
Some of the major symptoms of thumb arthritis include:
Pain is the initial and the most common symptom of the thumb arthritis. Pain might occur at the base of an individual’s thumb when they apply some kind of force to lift or hold an object.
Other symptoms and signs might include:
- Decreased strength when pinching or grasping objects
- Tenderness, stiffness, and swelling at the base of the thumb
- The enlarged or bony appearance of the joint at the base of your thumb
- Decreased range of motion
The causes of Thumb arthritis include:
Previous injury or trauma to your thumb joint can cause thumb arthritis.
In a usual thumb joint, cartilage covers the ends of the bones — hence, allowing the bones to glide smoothly against each other and acting as a cushion. With the thumb arthritis, the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones diminishes, and the smooth surface roughens. The bones then rub against each other; hence, resulting in joint damage and friction.
The damage to the joint may then result in the growth of an all-new bone along the sides of the already existing bone (bone spurs), which can produce observable lumps on the thumb joint.
- Some of the hereditary conditions, such as malformed joints and joint ligament laxity.
- Age above 40 years
- Jobs and activities that put high stress on the thumb joint.
When should you visit a doctor?
You must visit a doctor if there is persistent pain, stiffness or swelling at the base of the thumb.
Diagnosis and Treatment?
During a physical exam, the doctor will ask about the symptoms and look for the noticeable lumps or swelling on the joints.
The doctor might hold the joint while moving the thumb, with pressure, against the wrist bone. If this movement produces a grinding like sound or causes a gritty feeling or a pain, the cartilage has likely worn down, and the bones rubbing against each other.
For the treatment, during the initial stages of the problem, the doctor might perform non-surgical methods and if the problem becomes severe, there also might be a possibility of surgery. To give you relief from the pain, the doctor might provide you with certain medications like diclofenac or capsaicin, that are applied to your skin directly on the joint.