Osteoarthritis is the type of arthritis that affects the joint at the base of the thumb and it occurs when the usually smooth cartilage of the joint begins to wear away causing friction and damage to the bones and joint.
Common symptoms include swelling and tenderness at the base of the thumb with development of a bony bump over the joint. Loss of strength or increase in pain with activities that involve gripping or pinching such as turning a key or opening a door can also be signs associated with this condition.
Non-surgical: Ice on the joint, anti-inflammatory medication or wearing a supportive splint may help symptoms in the early stages but it is a progressive, degenerative condition and will likely get worse over time. A steroid injection into the joint may provide relief for several months but cannot be repeated indefinitely.
Surgical: There are surgical options that can be performed if non-surgical management is no longer effective, these include fusing of the bones which will alleviate symptoms but will limit movement or alternatively part of the joint may be removed and reconstructed using a tendon graft or artificial substance.
Following surgery a cast will be applied for four to eight weeks depending on the procedure. Followed by rehabilitation with a physiotherapist to regain movement and strength in the hand. There may be some discomfort in the initial stages of rehabilitation but this will diminish with full recovery taking several months.