Thumb osteoarthritis is likely to affect women and develops after 40 years old. If a diagnosis is given early and treatment is started, the symptoms can be effectively managed.
The condition causes the cartilage to wear out gradually. It is important to note that thumb osteoarthritis typically affects the joint at the base of the thumb, specifically the basal joint.
A severe sprain or fracture of the thumb can impair the articular cartilage. If the basal joint is damaged, it can disrupt the movement of the thumb joint. In case the joint is significantly misaligned after injury, the wearing of the joint increases which leads to osteoarthritis.
What are the signs?
Thumb pain is the main sign linked with thumb osteoarthritis. Primarily, the discomfort is present during activity or movement.
As the condition progresses, pain is present even while at rest or inactivity. The other symptoms of thumb osteoarthritis include:
- Difficulty holding objects
- Reduced range of motion
- Stiffness, swelling or tenderness at the base of the thumb
- Enlarged appearance of the basal joint
Remember that osteoarthritis can also cause the basal joint to loosen and flex back excessively.
Management of thumb osteoarthritis
During the early phases of thumb osteoarthritis, it is managed with conservative measures such as:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to lessen the swelling and inflammation
- Application of ice for 5-15 minutes several times throughout the day to reduce the inflammation and swelling
- Using a splint to limit thumb movement
- Physical therapy or occupational therapy
- Steroid shots into the joint