Thumb arthritis

Overview

Thumb arthritis is a common complication of aging. It occurs when the cartilage begins to wear away from the ends the bones that make up the joint at your thumb’s base. This joint is also known as the Carpometacarpal (CMC) joint.

Thumb arthritis can lead to severe pain and swelling. It can also cause decreased strength and range-of-motion, which makes it difficult for people to perform simple tasks like opening jars or turning knobs. The treatment involves medication and splints. Surgery may be required for severe thumb arthritis.

Signs

Thumb arthritis’s most obvious symptom is pain. When you grasp, pinch, grip or pinch an object or use your thumb for force, pain can be felt at the base or tip of your thumb.

You might also notice the following signs and symptoms:

  • Tenderness, swelling and stiffness at the base your thumb
  • Reduced strength for grasping and pinching objects
  • Reduced range of motion
  • An appearance that is larger or more bony at the base your thumb joint

When should you see a doctor?

If you experience persistent swelling, stiffness, or pain at your thumb’s base, consult your doctor.

Causes

As we age, thumb arthritis is a common condition. Thumb arthritis can also be caused by injury or trauma to the thumb joint.

The cartilage covering the ends of the bones in a thumb joint acts as a cushion, allowing the bones and joints to glide together. Thumb arthritis causes the cartilage covering the bones to deteriorate and the surface becomes rougher. This causes friction and joint injury.

Damage to the joint could lead to growth of bone spurs along the sides of existing bone, which can cause noticeable lumps in your thumb joint.

Risk factors

You can increase your chances of developing thumb arthritis by taking the following steps:

  • Female sex.
  • Age over 40
  • Obesity.
  • Some hereditary conditions such as joint ligament laxity or malformed joints can be caused by genetics.
  • Your thumb joint may sustain injuries such as fractures or sprains.
  • Rheumatoid is a disease that alters the normal structure and function cartilage. While osteoarthritis is most commonly associated with thumb arthritis, rheumatoid can also cause damage to the CMC joint. This happens more often than the other joints in the hand.
  • High-stress jobs and activities that place a lot of stress on the thumb joint.
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