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Arthritis, Thumb

Arthritis, Thumb Causes

Currently, the specific cause of thumb arthritis is not known. However, it has been proposed that the inflammation occurs as a result of a number of factors, including being overweight, the aging process, injury or stress to the joint, heredity, and muscle weakness. Another risk factor is cumulative load to the joint, wherein repetitive use of the joint, such as in assembly line work, produces the arthritis.

Arthritis, Thumb Definition

Arthritis, thumb (or thumb arthritis) is characterized by inflammation of the joint of the wrist and the base of the thumb (basal or carpometacarpal joint). Thumb arthritis is also alternatively called basal joint arthritis.

Arthritis, Thumb Diagnosis

Thumb arthritis may be diagnosed based on a physical exam and clinical manifestations. The presence of distinctive lumps or swelling on the joints usually indicates thumb arthritis. In addition, a grinding sound, pain, or gritty feeling produced by moving the thumb against the wrist bone usually indicates that the cartilage has worn down ad the bones are rubbing against each other. Imaging techniques, such as X-rays, bone scans, CT scans, MRI scans, and arthrography may also be done to show bony projections along the bone spurs, worn-down cartilage, and loss of joint space.

Arthritis, Thumb Symptoms and Signs

Thumb arthritis manifests with swelling and pain in the thumb and wrist, particularly while grasping or pinching. This symptom usually occurs first thing in the morning, and may persist for at least half an hour before the thumb loosens up. The pain may decrease mid-day, but then return with a dull ache at the end of the day or after vigorous use. A bump may also be observed at the affected joint In general, symptoms of thumb arthritis include: pain, stiffness, tenderness, and swelling at the base of the thumb; decreased strength while pinching or grasping objects; decreased range of motion; plus enlarged and bony appearance of the affected joint.

Arthritis, Thumb Treatment

Thumb arthritis may be treated with a number of self-care measures, significant lifestyle changes to lessen the stress on the affected joint, as well as using splints, medications, or corticosteroid injections. Severe thumb arthritis may require surgery.

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