Thumb arthritis is pain that affects one or both thumbs. It is often found in elderly people and occurs when the cartilage in the thumb wears off so that that the bones of the thumb rub together and cause pain and swelling. This affects the thumb joint, also known as the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint.

Thumb arthritis manifests itself as swelling, pain and stiffness. One cannot perform normal activities such as grasping, turning doorknobs or even opening jars. Treatment involves medicines and splints. Severe thumb arthritis needs surgery.


Basal thumb arthritis often affects the action of the thumb so that it will be difficult to grasp or forming a fist without feeling pain.

Thumb osteoarthritis is the most usual common of thumb arthritis and is often referred to as CMC (carpometacarpal) arthritis. This is due to the wearing out of cartilage in the carpometacarpal joint, which is located in between the metacarpal of the thumb and the trapezium, a wrist bone.

Rheumatoid thumb arthritis at an early stage may present symptoms much like osteoarthritis. It is often an autoimmune disease when the antibodies of the body attack its own cartilages. It may also present with other signs and symptoms such as fever, weakness and loss of appetite.


Thumb arthritis can being about pain, stiffness and swelling which will make it difficult for you to grasp, pinch or open things.

Other symptoms and signs are the following:

  • Swelling of the thumb
  • Stiffness of the thumb
  • Tenderness at the base of the thumb
  • Low strength when pinching or grasping  things
  • Decreased thumb movement
  • Enlarged joint at the base of the thumb


Your doctor will do physical examination, which can reveal your symptoms, as well as signs on your thumb.

Your health care provider would hold your joint while moving your thumb, with strain, in opposition to your wrist. If this movement produces a grinding sound, or a gritty feeling, the cartilage has probably worn down, and the bones are rubbing in opposition to each other.

Other tests include imaging techniques, such as X-rays to reveal bone spurs, worn-down cartilage and loss of joint space.



During the first few days of thumb arthritis, treatment generally entails a mixture of non-surgical methods. In case your thumb arthritis is severe, surgery is possibly needed. A splint can support your joint and restrict the motion of your thumb and wrist. You would wear a splint just at night or for the duration of the day.

Over-the counter pain relievers may be taken, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen.

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