During a physical exam, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and look for noticeable swelling or lumps on your joints.
As explained on mayoclinic.org, your doctor might hold your joint while moving your thumb, with pressure, against your wrist bone. If this movement produces a grinding sound or causes pain or a gritty feeling, the cartilage has likely worn down, and the bones are rubbing against each other.
Imaging techniques, usually X-rays, can reveal signs of thumb arthritis, including:
- Bone spurs
- Worn-down cartilage
- Loss of joint space
Once diagnosed with thumb arthritis, your doctor may offer you many different treatment options. They will most likely start with conservative treatments such as anti-inflammatories or cortisone injections. These treatments may alleviate your symptoms and help reduce pain for a short period of time, however in most instances they will not completely resolve the problem. If these treatments do not help your pain your doctor may refer you to a surgeon to discuss your discomfort.
Once conservative treatment is no longer effective, your doctor may recommend surgery.
- Joint Fusion (Arthrodesis): The bones of the thumb joint are fused with a plate or screw, eliminating painful bone-on-bone contact, but also eliminating any motion at that joint.
- Trapezial Resection with Ligament Reconstruction: Full or partial removal of the arthritic bone at the base of the CMC joint (the trapezium) and insertion of a tendon into the joint to act as a cushion.
- Arthroscopy: A small camera is inserted into the joint and used to evaluate the joint and attempt minimally invasive correction, removing bone spurs to help restore joint motion.
- Joint Replacement (Arthroplasty). An artificial implant is placed in the arthritic thumb joint to eliminate bone-on-bone contact.
- Osteotomy: The metacarpal is cut and repositioned to help correct deformities.