Degenerative Arthritis at the Base of the Thumb in Post-Menopausal Women.

Arthritis of the thumb is a common condition in women who have already experienced menopause.  The most common type of thumb arthritis is known as ‘osteo’ or degenerative arthritis.  Arthritis means inflammation of a joint. Most frequently, this condition is seen in the thumbs of middle-aged females.  Causes have been found to include hormonal changes, changes due to the aging process, genetic inheritance from parents and/or grandparents, or possibly a condition that existed at birth but not noticed until later years.  It is estimated that about 50% of the women over 50 years old develop changes in their thumb joint that can be seen on an x-ray.  By the time women reach their 70’s, 95% of them have these types of changes.  It is indeed fortunate that not all people with arthritis in their joint have pain and that only about 25% of those with these types of changes (that can be seen on x-rays) have pain in their thumbs.

Symptoms:

  • Pain and swelling at the base of the thumb and wrist; especially when pinching or grasping something
  • Symptoms may be more severe first thing in the morning until thumb “loosens” up and then may subside
  • Bump at the joint
  • Dull aching towards end of the day

Treatments:

Mild to Moderate Symptoms

  • Physician examination and tests to determine cause of thumb pain
  • Anti-infammatory medication
  • Rest
  • Splint
  • Patient education to minimize symptoms and protect the damaged joint

Moderate to Severe Symptoms:

  • Physician examination and tests to determine cause of thumb pain
  • Physician and patient may decide on surgery
  • First type of surgery is to fuse the two bones making up the joint; this eliminates the joint and the pain.  Potential drawbacks: some loss of motion and some stiffening of the joint
  • Second type of surgery is to remove the arthritic surfaces and insert natural tendon or synthetic material between the bones.
  • Physician may prescribe hand therapy to increase mobility and strength

Pain and stiffness at the base of the thumb are extremely common and should prompt consideration of an evaluation by your physician.

Degenerative Arthritis at the Base of the Thumb in Post-Menopausal Women.

Arthritis of the thumb is a common condition in women who have already experienced menopause.  The most common type of thumb arthritis is known as ‘osteo’ or degenerative arthritis.  Arthritis means inflammation of a joint. Most frequently, this condition is seen in the thumbs of middle-aged females.  Causes have been found to include hormonal changes, changes due to the aging process, genetic inheritance from parents and/or grandparents, or possibly a condition that existed at birth but not noticed until later years.  It is estimated that about 50% of the women over 50 years old develop changes in their thumb joint that can be seen on an x-ray.  By the time women reach their 70’s, 95% of them have these types of changes.  It is indeed fortunate that not all people with arthritis in their joint have pain and that only about 25% of those with these types of changes (that can be seen on x-rays) have pain in their thumbs.

Symptoms:

  • Pain and swelling at the base of the thumb and wrist; especially when pinching or grasping something
  • Symptoms may be more severe first thing in the morning until thumb “loosens” up and then may subside
  • Bump at the joint
  • Dull aching towards end of the day

Treatments:

Mild to Moderate Symptoms

  • Physician examination and tests to determine cause of thumb pain
  • Anti-infammatory medication
  • Rest
  • Splint
  • Patient education to minimize symptoms and protect the damaged joint

Moderate to Severe Symptoms:

  • Physician examination and tests to determine cause of thumb pain
  • Physician and patient may decide on surgery
  • First type of surgery is to fuse the two bones making up the joint; this eliminates the joint and the pain.  Potential drawbacks: some loss of motion and some stiffening of the joint
  • Second type of surgery is to remove the arthritic surfaces and insert natural tendon or synthetic material between the bones.
  • Physician may prescribe hand therapy to increase mobility and strength

Pain and stiffness at the base of the thumb are extremely common and should prompt consideration of an evaluation by your physician.