Diagnosis

    During a physical exam, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and look for noticeable swelling or lumps on your joints.

    Your doctor might hold your joint while moving your thumb, with pressure, against your wrist bone. If this movement produces a grinding sound, or causes pain or a gritty feeling, the cartilage has likely worn down, and the bones are rubbing against each other.

    Imaging techniques, usually X-rays, can reveal signs of thumb arthritis, including:

    • Bone spurs
    • Worn-down cartilage
    • Loss of joint space

    Treatment

    In the early stages of thumb arthritis, treatment usually involves a combination of non-surgical therapies. If your thumb arthritis is severe, surgery might be necessary.

    Medication

    To relieve pain, your doctor might recommend:

    • Topical medications, such as capsaicin or diclofenac, which are applied to the skin over the joint
    • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve)
    • Prescription pain relievers, such as celecoxib (Celebrex) or tramadol (Conzip, Ultram)

    Splint

    A splint can support your joint and limit the movement of your thumb and wrist. You might wear a splint just at night or throughout the day and night.

    Splints can help:

    • Decrease pain
    • Encourage proper positioning of your joint while you complete tasks
    • Rest your joint

    Injections

    If pain relievers and a splint aren't effective, your doctor might recommend injecting a long-acting corticosteroid into your thumb joint. Corticosteroid injections can offer temporary pain relief and reduce inflammation.

    Surgery

    If you don't respond to other treatments or if you're barely able to bend and twist your thumb, your doctor might recommend surgery. Options include:

    • Joint fusion (arthrodesis). The bones in the affected joint are permanently fused. The fused joint can bear weight without pain, but has no flexibility.
    • Osteotomy. The bones in the affected joint are repositioned to help correct deformities.
    • Trapeziectomy. One of the bones in your thumb joint (trapezium) is removed.
    • Joint replacement (arthroplasty). All or part of the affected joint is removed and replaced with a graft from one of your tendons.

    These surgeries can all be done on an outpatient basis. After surgery, you can expect to wear a cast or splint over your thumb and wrist for up to six weeks. Once the cast is removed, you might have physical therapy to help you regain hand strength and movement.

    Clinical trials

    Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this condition.

    Lifestyle and home remedies

    To ease pain and improve joint mobility, try to:

    • Modify hand tools. Consider purchasing adaptive equipment — such as jar openers, key turners and large zipper pulls — designed for people with limited hand strength. Replace traditional door handles, which you must grasp with your thumb, with levers.
    • Apply cold. Icing the joint for five to 15 minutes several times a day can help relieve swelling and pain.
    • Apply heat. For some, heat may be more effective than cold in relieving pain.

    Preparing for your appointment

    You might be referred to a doctor who specializes in disorders of the joints (rheumatologist).

    What you can do

    • Write down your symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason why you scheduled the appointment.
    • Write down your key medical information, including other conditions and any history of injury to the painful joint.
    • Write down key personal information, including any major changes or stressors in your life.
    • Make a list of all your medications, vitamins or supplements.
    • Ask a relative or friend to accompany you, to help you remember what the doctor says.
    • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

    Questions to ask your doctor

    • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
    • What kinds of tests do I need?
    • Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
    • What treatments are available?
    • Are there any restrictions I should follow?
    • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?

    In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions.

    What to expect from your doctor

    Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may leave time to go over points you want to discuss in depth. You might be asked:

    • When did your pain begin?
    • How severe are your symptoms? Are they continuous or occasional?
    • What, if anything, seems to improve or worsen your symptoms?
    • Have you ever injured that hand?
    Is there surgery for arthritis in the thumb?
    In the early stages of thumb arthritis, treatment usually involves a combination of non-surgical therapies. If your thumb arthritis is severe, surgery might be necessary. more
    How successful is thumb surgery for arthritis?
    Pros: Removing the entire trapezium eliminates the possibility of arthritis returning and, according to Dr. Ruch, LRTI has a 96 percent success rate. “Most patients achieve complete pain relief and mobility equal to that of a healthy thumb, with results lasting at least 15 to 20 years,” he says. more
    How successful is surgery for thumb arthritis?
    Though the surgery is successful in stabilizing the thumb, it is followed by a minimum six-month recovery time before the patient regains their strength and grasp, Ruch says. With fiberwire ligament reconstruction, recovery time is shortened to three months. more
    Does surgery work for thumb arthritis?
    In use for more than 40 years, LRTI is the most commonly performed surgery for thumb arthritis. The damaged joint surfaces are removed and replaced with a cushion of tissue that keeps the bones separated. To accomplish this, surgeons remove all or part of the trapezium bone in the wrist at the base of the thumb. more
    What surgery is done for thumb arthritis?
    Ligament Reconstruction and Tendon Interposition (LRTI) In use for more than 40 years, LRTI is the most commonly performed surgery for thumb arthritis. The damaged joint surfaces are removed and replaced with a cushion of tissue that keeps the bones separated. more
    What is the best surgery for thumb arthritis?
    In use for more than 40 years, LRTI is the most commonly performed surgery for thumb arthritis. The damaged joint surfaces are removed and replaced with a cushion of tissue that keeps the bones separated. To accomplish this, surgeons remove all or part of the trapezium bone in the wrist at the base of the thumb. more
    How long does it take to recover from thumb arthritis surgery?
    After surgery, your thumb will be placed in a cast for three to four weeks, followed by a plastic splint for four to six weeks. Typically, it takes between six and eight weeks to regain full movement in your thumb. more
    What is thumb arthritis surgery called?
    Ligament Reconstruction and Tendon Interposition (LRTI) In use for more than 40 years, LRTI is the most commonly performed surgery for thumb arthritis. more
    Why is thumb called thumb?
    The term “thumb” was first used before the 12th century and is believed to have come from the Proto-Indo-European term tum, meaning “to swell,” which makes the thumb "the swollen one." more
    How successful is thumb arthritis surgery?
    Pros: Removing the entire trapezium eliminates the possibility of arthritis returning and, according to Dr. Ruch, LRTI has a 96 percent success rate. “Most patients achieve complete pain relief and mobility equal to that of a healthy thumb, with results lasting at least 15 to 20 years,” he says. more
    What can I expect after thumb arthritis surgery?
    Recovering the early movement takes six to eight weeks, but increasing the strength of the thumb pinch can take six months. After surgery, your hand will be painful. Take pain relief medication for the first 48 hours and thereafter, as necessary. more

    Source: www.mayoclinic.org

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