Basal Joint Arthritis

Basal Joint Arthritis

What is basal joint arthritis?

The thumb joint allows us to move the thumb and it wears out as we age. Almost every activity involves using the thumb for grasping or pinching. Thumb arthritis is usually found in women over the age of 50.

What causes thumb arthritis?

The joint is highly mobile, is used daily and is prone to overuse and wear and tear. The ligaments thicken with age, loosening the join. The cartilage at the ends of the bones wears away and the bones rub against each other. This is very painful and cause formation of bone spurs as the body attempts to heal itself.

Thumb arthritis is caused by wear and tear or osteoarthritis. However, a past thumb injury like a fracture or ligament damage predisposes to post-traumatic osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is also a cause. Carpel tunnel syndrome can predispose a woman to thumb arthritis.

What are the symptoms of thumb arthritis?

The main symptom is pain at the base of the thumb, and swelling. The pain is often related to activity, and can be very disabling.

How is it diagnosed?

Your Ortho Illinois Hand and Wrist surgeon will examine the joint looking for degenerative changes or inflammation of the joint. X-rays are used to confirm the diagnosis.

How is thumb arthritis treated?

The main initial treatment is activity modification, rest, exercises and splinting. Pain is treated with over- the- counter medications called NSAIDS, like Tylenol and Advil. A splint will be used to immobilize the joint for 3-4 weeks.

When conservative measures fail to control symptoms, and improve function a steroid injection may be recommended to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and improve function. When all else fails, there are a variety of surgical procedures available.