Thumbs down to thumb arthritis

Thumb arthritis may sound uncommon, but it is actually quite common. According to reports, arthritis in the thumb may be the most common form of arthritis after knee arthritis in the US.

Can you think of some of the most common uses of your thumb?

Twisting the lid of a jar, writing a post-it note for your love, texting a message and sprinkling a pinch of salt – all of these become mighty hard if your thumb does not cooperate.

Where does arthritis of the thumb strike?

It occurs at the base of the thumb, where the thumb meets the wrist. Because the thumb is used for so many activities, this joint is naturally prone to increased wear and tear.

Who gets it?

Surprisingly, women over the age of 40 are most vulnerable. A study indicated that women could have a specific molecule that makes them vulnerable to thumb arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is also a leading cause of thumb arthritis. Therefore, people who suffer from osteoarthritis may develop symptoms of arthritic thumb too.

Other causes of this condition include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tendonitis
  • Cervical spine arthritis

What are the symptoms?

Most patients are first alerted of something wrong when the base of the thumb begins to pain or throb. Important symptoms are:

  • Pain or swelling at the base of the thumb
  • Limited motion of the thumb
  • Difficulty in gripping and turning things
  • Pain when moving the thumb

Immediate pain control in thumb arthritis:

Immediate pain control measures include applying an ice-pack over the tender or swollen area. Cold treatment may continue for 15 minutes or so.

Treatment:

When patients are diagnosed with arthritis of the thumb, the first phase of the treatment is pain control. NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs) are administered to help manage pain and restore movement.

Doctors may also suggest the use of hand splints to support the thumb. Although this is a common mode of treatment, research shows that splinting may not really decrease pain or improve hand function in people with the disease.

In cases where pain is unbearable and NSAIDs do not have much effect, doctors may recommend cortisone injections directly at the site of pain and inflammation.

Although the injection provides quick relief from pain, these are not a long term cure because pain does come back. Besides, cortisone injections are associated with serious side effects.

Surgery is the last option for patients with arthritic thumb. The offending bone may be removed or doctors may decide to fuse the bones in order to put an end to all motion at the base of the thumb.

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