Thumb Arthritis 

The base of the thumb is the most common joint in the body to get arthritis. Pain from arthritis at the base of the thumb can be debilitating and often affects all aspects of daily life.

Symptoms
Patients with arthritis at the base of the thumb often complain of: 

  • Pain with gripping or pinching
  • Difficulty performing activities like opening a jar or turning a key
  • Limited motion
  • Swelling and tenderness at the base of the thumb
  • An enlarged “out-of-joint”  appearance

Evaluation and Diagnosis
Evaluation of a patient with the above symptoms begins with a careful physical examination. X-rays are taken to help confirm the diagnosis. 

Treatment
A variety of treatment options exist for treating arthritis affecting the thumb. Often, this starts with nonoperative treatments such as activity modification (such as altering hand grip) and anti-inflammatory medications. A brace to support the thumb joint during activities is helpful for symptom relief and management. Corticosteriod injections into the base of the thumb can be very effective at decreasing pain. 

When these options fail, surgery may give substantial and long-term relief to patients with persistent symptoms. The need for and timing of surgery is tailored to each patient, but evaluation by an orthopedic hand surgeon is an important first step to establish a diagnosis and improve quality of life. 

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