Hand Doctor Discusses Basilar Joint Arthritis

Hand Doctor Discusses Basilar Joint Arthritis

Arthritis of the thumb, also known as basilar joint arthritis, causes pain and stiffness in your thumb joint.

Doctors refer to the joint where your thumb meets your hand, near your wrist and fleshy part of your thumb, as the basal joint. This joint allows you to swivel and pivot your thumb, and to pinch your fingers and thumb together to grip objects.

Arthritis irritates or destroys joints between bones. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says that osteoarthritis, which is arthritis resulting from normal wear and tear, is the most common type of basilar joint arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the smooth cartilage covering the ends of bones wears away, allowing the bones to grind against one another when you move the joint.

Basilar joint arthritis is more common in women than in men, and it typically affects people over the age of 40. A history of injuries to your hand, especially fractures, increases your risk of developing arthritis of the thumb.

Symptoms of basilar joint arthritis include pain with activities that involve pinching or gripping, such as turning a key, snapping your fingers, or opening a door. You may notice swelling or tenderness at the basilar joint at the base of your thumb. Thumb arthritis can cause aching of your thumb, especially after prolonged use. The joint may become enlarged or develop a boney prominence over the joint. Your thumb joint may feel stiff.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Basilar Joint Arthritis

A hand doctor can diagnose and treat basilar joint arthritis. Your hand specialist will start by gathering a detailed medical history and examining your hand. Your hand doctor will ask about your symptoms, past injuries to the affected hand, and activities that aggravate symptoms.

Your hand specialist may hold the basilar joint firmly while moving your thumb. A gritty sensation, pain or a grinding sound indicates basilar joint arthritis. Your hand doctor may recommend an x-ray, which shows deterioration of the thumb joint in addition to any bone spurs or calcium deposits that can also cause pain.

Nonsurgical treatment for basilar joint arthritis includes icing the joint for 5 to 15 minutes several times each day, taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for pain relief, rest, and wearing a supportive splint.

Hand surgery may be required when nonsurgical treatment for thumb arthritis fails. A procedure known as carpal metacarpal arthroplasty with tendon transfer is the gold standard of surgical treatment for thumb arthritis. To perform the procedure, a hand surgeon removes the trapezium bone, which connects to three other bones that can develop arthritis, and creates a “scar tissue joint” that can never develop arthritis.

If you have an aching or soreness at the base of your thumb, you may have basilar joint arthritis. To learn more about this joint disease, its diagnosis and treatment, make an appointment with your local hand doctor.