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HealthInfo Canterbury

Overview of thumb arthritis

It's common for arthritis (osteoarthritis) to affect your thumbs. Depending on how bad it is, this can make it hard to do everyday tasks such as opening jars and doors, doing crafts and hobbies or working in the garden. It often gets worse over time.

Osteoarthritis often happens in both thumbs but one thumb is likely to be worse than the other.

You're more at risk of arthritis of the thumb is you're over 40, have had a previous injury to the area or your job involves repetitive movement of your thumb. It's also more common in women than men.

Symptoms of arthritis of the thumb

Pain is the first and most common symptom of arthritis of the thumb. You can get pain at the base of your thumb when you grip, grasp or pinch an object, or when you use your thumb to apply force.

Other signs and symptoms might include:

Diagnosing arthritis of the thumb

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine your thumbs. They may suggest an X-ray to confirm that you have arthritis in your thumb but this isn't always necessary. They may be able to diagnose arthritis based on your symptoms and what they can see.

On the next page: Self-care for thumb arthritis

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by Plastic Surgery Department, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed March 2021.

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Page reference: 840669

Review key: HIOST-35589