WHAT IS OSTEOARTHRITIS OF THE FINGERS AND THUMB?
Osteoarthritis of the fingers and thumb is characterized as chronic and often disabling pain and stiffness of one or more joints. Most people who are affected by osteoarthritis of the fingers and thumb are middle-aged or older.
HOW IS OSTEOARTHRITIS OF THE FINGERS AND THUMB DIAGNOSED?
A physical examination can reveal abnormal range of motion in the joints, swelling, and pain or tenderness over the joints, in particular at the base of the thumb.
X-rays can show joint damage, but pain usually precedes x-ray evidence. X-rays or other imaging studies also can detect osteophytes (bone spurs).
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?
Osteoarthritis of the fingers and thumbs occurs when the tissue that cushions the ends of the bones in a joint (cartilage) degenerates. Cartilage keeps the joint flexible and provides protection between the bones. When the cartilage breaks down, the bones rub against each other, resulting in pain and loss of movement. Bony spurs may form around the joint, causing pain and inflammation. The exact causes for why the cartilage breaks down are unclear.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENTS?
Early osteoarthritis of the thumb can be effectively treated using non-surgical treatment options, for example non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation and swelling, icing the joint for 5 to 15 minutes several times a day to relieve inflammation and swelling and splinting to restrict movement of the thumb.
Surgical options include carpometacarpal joint fusion (arthrodesis) an option for patients looking for pain relief who are not overly concerned about losing fine thumb motion or joint replacement where plastic or metal prostheses are used to replace the carpometacarpal joint where the prosthesis serves as a spacer after the arthritic surfaces of the bones in the carpometacarpal joint are removed.