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An Overview About Thumb Arthritis And CMC Joint Pain

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Carpometacarpal (CMC) joint or the joint at the base of your thumb will be affected by arthritis in some people as they get older. This happens when the cartilage in this joint wears away; it causes pain, and it is called CMC joint pain. Apart from the severe pain, this also causes swelling, reduced strength, and limited range of motion of the joint. This makes it difficult to perform daily tasks like opening bottles, doorknobs, etc. Often, it is treated with a combination of medication and splints. Read on to know more about thumb arthritis and CMC joint pain.

The Symptoms Of Thumb Arthritis

The first and foremost symptom of thumb arthritis is severe pain that usually develops at the base of the thumb where the cartilage disintegrates due to wear and tear. This makes it difficult to apply force, creating difficulty to use the palm. If the swelling and pain are persistent, you must see a doctor as delaying it causes serious joint damage.

Listed below are the main symptoms of thumb arthritis:

  • Tenderness and swelling at the base of the thumb
  • Bony or enlarged bump at the base of the thumb

The Causes Of Thumb Arthritis

The most common cause of thumb arthritis is aging, and because of this, it is commonly found in older people. Apart from this, it can also develop due to past trauma or injury to the thumb joint. These two are the major reasons for CMC joint pain in people. In both cases, the cartilage wears out causing the bones in the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint to rub against each other leading to joint damage. This can also cause the growth of new bone, and this condition is known as a bone spur; it produces a noticeable bump at the base of the thumb.

Diagnosis Of Thumb Arthritis

The procedures used for diagnosing thumb arthritis is like that used for other joint pain issues, and they are listed below:

  • Physical examination
  • Imaging techniques to check for bone spurs, loss of joint space, and worn-down cartilages

Treatments For Thumb Arthritis

If thumb arthritis is detected in its earliest stages, the treatments are usually a combination of non-surgical therapies. Some of the medications used are capsaicin or diclofenac that are applied to the skin on the joint, OTC painkillers, and higher dose prescription painkillers. The other option is using a splint to support and limit the motion of the wrist and thumb. Injections are used if painkillers and splits are not effective in relieving the CMC joint pain.

On a final note, like all arthritis conditions, early diagnosis and initiation of treatment for thumb arthritis ensure better results.