Arthritis is a condition that destroys joints. In osteoarthritis (also called degenerative arthritis), the cartilage, which normally covers the ends of bones and allows them to move smoothly against one another, wears down. As the arthritis progresses, the finger gets deformed and loses function. Osteoarthritis is most common at the base of thumb and is usually treated with pain pills, splinting or steroid injections.

The most common joints to develop osteoarthritis in the hand include the joint at the end of the finger and the joint at the base of the thumb. This often results in difficulty with activities involving gripping such as opening jars, turning doorknobs, and using keys.

Osteoarthritis of the hand joints is much less common then rheumatoid arthritis. Many patients with rheumatoid arthritis have this dysfunction present in both hands and become disabled due to chronic pain. Pain and join deterioration from rheumatoid is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the lining of the joints.


Treatment options for arthritis depends on the specific diagnosis.

For arthritis at the base of the thumb that is discovered early, splints, activity modification, and anti-swelling medicines can relieve symptoms. For more severe cases, joint replacement surgery may be recommended.

The primary treatment for a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis involves medication used to control the inflammation produced by the body’s immune system. In cases where pain and deformity progress to the point that day-to-day activities are affected, surgery can offer significant improvement in function.