. Guide To Basal Thumb Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments | Advanced Hand

Guide To Basal Thumb Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Guide To Basal Thumb Arthritis Causes Symptoms & Treatments
Our hands are remarkable instruments, enabling us to grasp, create, and connect with the world around us. But what happens when the simple act of gripping a pen, turning a key, or opening a jar becomes an excruciating ordeal because of basal thumb arthritis

Basal thumb arthritis is an often under-recognised condition that silently affects millions worldwide. From its causes to the debilitating symptoms, the journey through this condition can be both perplexing and distressing. 

If you think you might be suffering from basal thumb arthritis, this guide to understanding, managing, and overcoming the condition will be useful. Keep reading to find out more. 

Learn more: Thumb Arthritis: Lifestyle Modifications & Home Remedies to Ease Symptoms

What causes basal thumb arthritis to develop?



What causes basal thumb arthritis to develop-hand specialist singapore

Basal thumb arthritis, as its name suggests, is a condition that affects the joint at the base of the thumb. It occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joint wears away, leading to pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. 

These are the common underlying causes that set this condition in motion.

  • Wear and tear

The most common cause of basal thumb arthritis is the natural wear and tear that comes with ageing. As we go through life, the cartilage in our joints gradually breaks down, leading to joint deterioration and the development of arthritis. The repetitive use of the thumb joint, especially in activities that involve gripping, pinching, and twisting motions, can also accelerate this process.

  • Joint instability

Chronic overuse or previous injuries, such as sprains or ligament tears, can disrupt the joint’s stability. This instability puts excessive stress on the joint, leading to cartilage damage and the onset of basal thumb arthritis.

  • Genetics

Family history plays a role in the development of basal thumb arthritis. Some individuals may inherit a genetic predisposition to joint problems or have an inherited structural abnormality in the thumb joint, making them more susceptible to arthritis. 

  • Hormonal Changes

Postmenopausal women are at a higher risk due to the decrease in estrogen levels, which can affect the integrity of the joint cartilage and contribute to the progression of basal thumb arthritis.

  • Inflammatory conditions 

Certain inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can affect multiple joints in the body, including the basal thumb joint. In these cases, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues, leading to inflammation, joint damage, and the development of arthritis.

What are the symptoms of basal thumb arthritis?


What are the symptoms of basal thumb arthritis-hand specialist singapore
Basal thumb arthritis can silently creep into your life, gradually eroding the joy of simple tasks that involve the use of your thumbs. While the symptoms may vary from person to person, recognising the telltale signs is essential for early detection and prompt intervention.

  • Pain

Persistent pain at the base of the thumb is one of the hallmark symptoms of basal thumb arthritis. Initially, the pain may be intermittent, occurring during activities that involve gripping, grasping, or pinching motions. As the condition progresses, the pain may become more frequent and intense, even at rest or nighttime. 

  • Stiffness

Basal thumb arthritis often leads to joint stiffness, making it challenging to move the thumb freely. You may experience difficulty in performing simple tasks such as opening jars, turning keys, or writing. 

  • Swelling

Inflammation and swelling around the base of the thumb are common manifestations of basal thumb arthritis. The joint may appear swollen, tender to the touch, and warm. 

  • Clicking or grinding sensation

You may experience a clicking or grinding sensation when moving the thumb joint which is caused by deteriorating cartilage rubbing against each other. It can be accompanied by audible sounds.

  • Limited range of motion

The progressive nature of basal thumb arthritis can result in a limited range of motion in the thumb joint. It may become difficult to fully flex, extend, or rotate the thumb, affecting overall hand dexterity and functionality.

How is basal thumb arthritis diagnosed?


How is basal thumb arthritis diagnosed-hand specialist singapore
A proper diagnosis of basal thumb arthritis is crucial for developing an effective treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. Hence, if you suspect you are suffering from the condition, do not hesitate to see a hand specialist in Singapore for treatment.
These are some ways a hand specialist diagnoses basal thumb arthritis

  • Medical history

A thorough understanding of your medical history is the first step in diagnosing basal thumb arthritis. A hand specialist will inquire about your symptoms, their duration, and any factors that exacerbate or alleviate them. They will also explore your medical background, including any previous hand injuries or conditions that may contribute to joint problems.

  • Physical examination

This allows the hand specialist to assess the thumb joint’s appearance, range of motion, and signs of inflammation. They may check for tenderness, swelling, or deformity. The examination may also involve specific manoeuvres to evaluate the joint’s stability and function.

  • X-ray

X-rays are commonly used to visualise the bones and joints and can provide valuable information about the condition of the thumb joint. X-ray images can reveal joint space narrowing, bone spurs, and changes in the shape or alignment of the thumb bones. These findings, along with the clinical symptoms, aid in confirming the diagnosis of basal thumb arthritis.

  • Other imaging tests

In some cases, additional imaging tests such as MRI scans or ultrasounds may be recommended. These tests can provide a more detailed view of the soft tissues, including the joint cartilage, ligaments, and surrounding structures. They can help evaluate the extent of damage and rule out other possible causes of symptoms.

How is basal thumb arthritis treated?


How is basal thumb arthritis treated-hand specialist singapore
A variety of treatment options, ranging from conservative measures to surgical interventions, are available to manage and alleviate the symptoms of basal thumb arthritis.

  • Medications

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce pain and inflammation. In some cases, prescription medications or corticosteroid injections may be recommended to alleviate symptoms.

  • Splinting and bracing

Wearing a splint or brace can provide support to the thumb joint, relieve pain, and stabilise the joint during activities. These devices help reduce stress on the joint and promote healing. 

  • Hand therapy

Working with a hand therapist can be highly beneficial in managing basal thumb arthritis. Therapists can provide exercises to improve thumb strength, flexibility, and range of motion. They may also employ modalities such as heat or cold therapy to alleviate pain and swelling.

  • Lifestyle modifications

Simple lifestyle changes can help minimise stress on the thumb joint. This includes modifying activities that exacerbate symptoms, using ergonomic tools and utensils, and practising joint protection techniques.

  • Surgery

When conservative measures fail to provide sufficient relief from the pain and functional limitations of basal thumb arthritis, surgical intervention may be considered. One commonly performed surgical procedure is Ligament Reconstruction Tendon Interposition Arthroplasty (LRTI). It aims to alleviate pain, restore thumb function, and improve overall hand functionality by reconstructing the joint at the base of the thumb. Speak with a hand specialist today to find out if surgical intervention is necessary. 

Learn more: Things to Expect After a Hand Surgery in Singapore

Do not let thumb pain hold you back

Seek treatment as early as possible so you can go back to doing the things you love.

Here at Advanced Hand, Wrist & Nerve Centre, our hand specialist Dr Jacqueline Tan, is committed to providing you with the most appropriate treatment for basal thumb arthritis

Get in touch with us!