Osteoarthritis can lead to serious pain, joint stiffness, and other issues with normal joint function. When arthritis affects the thumb, accomplishing simple tasks can become difficult and sometimes even impossible. Thankfully, patients in the greater Atlanta, GA area that suffer from arthritis of the thumbs can seek treatment at The Hand Center at Crawford Plastic Surgery. Using advanced techniques, we can help ease pain in the thumbs and restore flexibility.

What Is Thumb Arthritis?

Thumb arthritis occurs when the cartilage wears down around the bones of the thumb joint (also known as the carpometacarpal joint or CMC joint). This can lead to major changes in a person's ability to move the thumb, as well as changes in grip strength. Daily tasks such as turning doorknobs and opening jars can become major challenges.

Symptoms of Thumb Arthritis

Some of the most common symptoms of thumb arthritis include:

  • Swelling at the base of the thumb
  • Tenderness around the thumb and palm
  • Stiffness of the thumb joint
  • Changes in grip strength
  • Changes in thumb mobility
  • Bony appearance at the base of the thumb

Causes of Thumb Arthritis

The most common causes of thumb arthritis are advanced age and previous injury of the thumb. The risk of osteoarthritis increases as people grow older, and prior thumb injuries can result in the formation of bone spurs as well as other joint problems later in life. People in occupations that involve a lot of stress on the thumbs run a higher risk of developing thumb arthritis.

Though this page is focused on osteoarthritis, it should also be noted that rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the thumb joint.

Thumb Arthritis Diagnosis

Proper diagnosis of thumb arthritis will involve a combination of a physical examination and advanced medical imaging. When patients visit our hand surgery center, they will be asked a number of questions regarding recent symptoms they've experienced and their medical history. The thumb will be slowly moved and checked for issues with mobility, pain, and pressure.

X-rays will be taken to check for telltale signs of arthritis. This could include the presence of bone spurs, major wear to the cartilage, and loss of joint space.

Treatment of Thumb Arthritis

Treatments for thumb arthritis can vary depending on the severity and progression of the condition. For early stages of arthritis, a variety of non-surgical treatments can be considered. This may include the use of a splint to stabilize the hand and thumb, medications to relieve pain, and corticosteroid injections to help reduce inflammation.

When non-surgical treatments prove ineffective, surgery may be considered to restore some degree of motion to the thumb and wrist. Surgical options include joint fusion (arthrodesis), repositioning the bones of the hand and thumb (osteotomy), removal of one of the bones around the thumb joint (trapeziectomy), and joint replacement surgery (arthroplasty).

Recovery after Surgery

The recovery for each of the above surgeries can vary. In general, patients can expect to wear a splint or a cast for up to six weeks after the procedure. Patients should avoid placing stress on the operated hand and avoid strenuous physical activity until the surgeon advises otherwise. Once the cast is removed, physical therapy often follows in order to restore strength and mobility to the hand.

Contact The Hand Center at Crawford Plastic Surgery to learn more about thumb arthritis and the treatment options available.