The Basics of Basilar Joint Arthritis

Basilar Joint Arthritis Defined

Otherwise known as “thumb arthritis,” basilar joint arthritis is the most common form of hand wear and tear arthritis (osteoarthritis) according to the medical experts at the Mayo Clinic. The condition arises when the joint cartilage at the base of the thumb begins to wear away. As this cartilage tissue becomes thinner, it provides less and less cushioning to protect against the thumb’s constant fine motor movements.

Without an abundance of cushioning cartilage, damage and inflammation compound exponentially as joints become rougher and grind even harder against one another. Patients often become aware of this damage when they begin to experience pronounced localized pain, swelling, tenderness, and stiffness.

The Causes and Symptoms of Basilar Joint Arthritis

Although more commonly caused by routine wear and tear, basilar joint arthritis can also result from a traumatic thumb injury. Beyond these causes, very little is known about the pathology of this condition.

In addition to the aforementioned pain, swelling, tenderness, and stiffness, patients often experience decreased strength and range of motion. The condition also goes hand in hand with several telltale physiological signs. For example, people with basilar joint arthritis often notice significant swelling at the base of the thumb. They can also develop a bony bump and exhibit signs of hyperextension.

Of course, patients are discouraged from engaging in self-diagnosis and encouraged to seek the advice of a qualified medical professional as soon as symptoms arise.

Treatment Options for Basilar Joint Arthritis

After rendering a diagnosis of basilar joint arthritis, most physicians suggest a combination of several nonsurgical treatment options including…

  • Targeted activity modification
  • Immobilization through the use of a brace
  • The localized application of heat/cold and various topical medicines

Physicians may also recommend steroid injections to reduce overall inflammation and the pain and swelling that typically accompanies it.

If and when these nonsurgical treatment options fail to provide adequate relief and reduction in symptom severity, physicians may recommend surgery. One surgical method involves simply fusing the bones of the thumb joint together; however, this procedure leaves patients with a severe lack of flexibility.

The preferred corrective surgery for basilar joint arthritis is carpal metacarpal arthroplasty with tendon transfer. This procedure replaces the faulty thumb tendon with an expendable tendon from the patient’s forearm.

Learn More About Basilar Joint Arthritis

If you want more information about basilar joint arthritis and effective ways to deal with the condition, you can gain expert insights by contacting Dr. Ivan G. Olarte, Dr. Stephen L. Helgemo, Jr., or one of the other skilled and knowledgeable medical professionals at the Florida Hand Center.