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Treatments for Thumb Arthritis

Treatments for Thumb Arthritis

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Experiencing thumb pain is a sign that something is not right in that part of the hand, but since most pain goes away soon enough, it may be nothing to worry over. When the pain lingers, it’s time to consider that a more serious problem is present. The issue could be arthritis of the thumb.

What is Thumb Arthritis?

One in five adults have some type of doctor-diagnosed arthritis, which means over 50 million people are suffering from a condition that irritates and destroys joints. With thumbs, osteoarthritis is usually the culprit that affects the basal joint at the base of the thumb. This type of the disease is degenerative, which means it causes a breakdown from wear-and-tear.

Signs and Symptoms

Pain at the thumb’s base is the most common and most obvious sign of thumb arthritis, which is also called basal joint arthritis. Gripping or grasping an object can be painful, as is attempting to pinch something. Using mild force to turn a door knob or use a key can be painful. In these situations, the pain may linger for some time after the thumb is used. Other symptoms include the following.

  • Tenderness, stiffness or swelling at the thumb’s base
  • Decrease strength in the thumb
  • Limited range of motion
  • Thumb’s base appears enlarged or bony

When to See a Doctor

When pain lingers, it’s time to see an orthopedic surgeon. Scheduling an appointment is also a good idea when experiencing any of the symptoms of thumb arthritis, or if the area becomes red or feels warm. Delaying treatment can lead to permanent joint damage.

Treatment Options

Early stage thumb arthritis responds well to nonsurgical treatments, such as putting ice on the joint for up to 15 minutes at a time, several times each day. Another option is anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen, to reduce swelling. Wearing support garments, such as splints, help limit movement of the thumb, which enables the affected area to rest and heal. As a progressive disease, arthritis typically gets worse over time, which means treatment options may include steroid injections.

When nonsurgical treatments stop helping a patient, surgery is the next step. One treatment involves fusing bone joints together. While patients may experience relief from pain, prolonged limited movement is a side effect. Another surgical treatment involves the removal and reconstruction of the basal joint. Consulting an orthopedic doctor is a good way to find the best treatment for arthritis of the thumb.