Osteoarthritis Fingers and ThumbWhat is Osteoarthritis Fingers and Thumb? Unlike what most people understand, arthritis is actually a complex disorder comprised of several distinct conditions and characterized by a common symptom: pain and inflammation of the joints. One of the most common forms of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA), otherwise known as degenerative arthritis.

Most people who have osteoarthritis of the fingers and thumb are middle-age or older.

Osteoarthritis Fingers and Thumb Facts:

During the onset of the breakdown of the cartilage of one or more joints, signs of osteoarthritis start to occur. The cartilage becomes completely damaged eventually, as the disease progresses resulting to loss. The common affected areas include the hands, including fingers and thumb, spine, and large weight bearing joints, such as the hips and the knees.

What causes Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis fingers and thumb is most primarily related to aging. As a person ages, the cartilage (the connective tissue that provides cushioning in the joints) increases in water content. In turn, this caused its protein content to degenerate.This change entirely upsets the cartilage makeup as the cartilage is mostly protein. Bony spurs may form around the joints causing pain and inflammation.

As a result of wear and tear, the cartilage thins. Without the cushioning provided by the cartilage, repetitive use of the joints over the years causes friction, which in turn results in irritation of the joints and eventually swelling.

As osteoarthritis progresses, the cartilage begins to flake off or forms tiny crevasses. In some cases, the cartilage of a person with osteoarthritis may even form new bone outgrowths called “spurs.” As the case advances, there is total loss of the cartilage, leading to extreme pain and limitation of joint mobility.


Osteoarthritis is not a systemic illness. That means, it only affects the joints (of the fingers and thumb) in this case and not any other organs of the body. The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is, of course, joint pain, often after repetitive use. The pain is worse later in the day usually though pain could also occur right after an extended period of rest. Patients with osteoarthritis may also observe swelling, warmth, and creaking of the affected joints in the fingers and thumb. Some stiffness and pain may occur as well.

Additionally, the symptoms of osteoarthritis can be intermittent. That means that patients with osteoarthritis may suffer pain for several years and then suddenly enjoy pain free intervals the next. As there is no cure yet, the disease may never completely go away.

How to Diagnose

X-rays of the joints affected by osteoarthritis are the most accurate method of diagnosing patients with this kind of arthritis. The x-ray will show whether there is loss of joint cartilage, or there is narrowing of the joint space between adjacent bone. X-rays are also helpful in order to determine what caused the joint pain – whether it is only caused by overusage or whether there are really the beginnings of the disease evident.

What are the Treatments Options?

Early osteoarthritis of the thumb can be effectively treated using non-surgical treatment options:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation and swelling,
  • Icing the joint for 5 to 15 minutes several times a day to relieve inflammation and swelling,
  • Splinting to restrict movement of the thumb.

Surgical Options:

  • carpometacarpal joint fusion (arthrodesis) for pain relief and are not overly concerned about losing fine thumb motion
  • Joint replacement where plastic or metal prostheses are used to replace the carpometacarpal joint,

The Cure For Osteoarthritis of the fingers and thumb

Our doctor conducts a physical examination which will reveal abnormal range of motions in the joints, swelling and pain over the joints in particular at the base of the thumb. X-rays can show amount of joint damage but pain usually precedes X-ray evidence. X-rays and other imaging studies can also detect osteophytes or bone spurs. Make an appointment by calling us and get well soon from your osteoarthritis fingers and thumb.

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