Q. I am a 47-year-old female with worsening pain and mild swelling at the base of my thumb. My doctor told me it’s due to arthritis. What can be done to help the pain?
A. Arthritis at the base of the thumb (called basal joint arthritis) is a very common problem, especially in women. It can be seen as early as age 40, and patients often first report discomfort or pain with heavy gripping. Over time, the symptoms progress and can lead to a constant dull pain, which can become sharp with motion. Treatment involves avoiding activities that worsen symptoms, but for those who continue to have pain, specific thumb braces, non-steroidal medications, and/or steroid injections may help. For those who still have severe pain after exhausting the above options, surgery can provide much relief.