Thumb Arthritis

Thumb Arthritis

Tips for Diagnosing and Treating Basilar Arthritis

Thumb Arthritis

Thumb arthritis can be frustrating, and diagnosing the exact cause can be tricky. While arthritis is a common culprit, other conditions can mimic its symptoms. Tendonitis, for example, can cause general pain around the joint. De Quervain's disease targets the wrist crease near your thumb, causing swelling.

Less common conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis can also affect the thumb joint, sometimes accompanied by additional symptoms like morning stiffness or swollen fingers.

Identifying Thumb Arthritis

The key to proper treatment lies in accurate diagnosis. Thumb arthritis pain typically concentrates at the base and worsens with pinching or gripping. You might also experience stiffness, weakness, or limited mobility in the thumb. In contrast, other conditions might present with pain in different locations, morning stiffness, or more prominent swelling.

Understanding the Cause

Thumb arthritis develops due to cartilage wear and tear in the joint, similar to a tire losing its tread. This degeneration occurs over time from everyday activities like texting or gripping objects. Genetics, past injuries, and loose ligaments can also contribute. While anyone can develop thumb arthritis, it's more common in women.
Thumb Arthritis Diagram

Importance of the Thumb Joint

The thumb's carpometacarpal (CMC) joint plays a crucial role in hand function. This complex joint allows for a wide range of motion thanks to a network of ligaments. Unfortunately, this joint is susceptible to various conditions that manifest as pain, weakness, stiffness, and instability, impacting not only hand function but potentially the entire upper extremity.

Symptoms and Early Intervention

The presentation of these conditions can vary. Some individuals experience intermittent pain flares even at rest, while others might only have discomfort during forceful pinching. In advanced cases, joint stiffness or contractures may develop, limiting mobility. Early diagnosis and intervention are essential for addressing these issues and restoring optimal hand function.

Treatment Options with Dr. Donnelly

If you experience thumb pain, it's important to consult a healthcare professional, preferably an orthopedic hand specialist, for a proper diagnosis. Depending on the severity of your case, treatment options for confirmed thumb arthritis may include immobilization with a brace, steroid injections for pain and inflammation, hand therapy to improve strength, stability and decrease pain, or in some cases, surgery.

Dr. Donnelly and his team specialize in helping patients manage thumb pain. If immobilization is necessary, they can recommend the appropriate splint. They can also provide guidance on protecting your thumb joint in daily life and suggest the use of special tools or techniques. If surgery is deemed necessary, Dr. Donnelly utilizes the latest techniques to ensure the best possible outcome.

If you or someone you know is struggling with undiagnosed thumb pain, contact Dr. Donnelly’s office today to schedule your appointment.

About Dr. Brandon P. Donnelly, MD

Dr. Brandon P. Donnelly is a board certified hand surgeon with Pontchartrain Orthopedics & Sports Medicine.  Dr. Donnelly completed his hand and microsurgery fellowship at the prestigious Philadelphia Hand to Shoulder Center. Dr. Donnelly treats all ages of patients in the greater New Orleans area for hand, wrist, and elbow conditions. 

This site is not intended to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual. Through this website and links to other websites, Brandon P. Donnelly, MD provides general information for educational purposes only. The content provided in this website and links, is not a substitute for medical care or treatment. You should not use this information in place of a consultation or the advice of your healthcare provider. Brandon P. Donnelly, MD is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any other information, services or product you obtain through this site.