N28 — July 2013 — A Pain-Free Thumbs Up!
Intro: Whether it's getting in the way of your mad skills on a video game — or it's interfering with your job – Thumb Arthritis is a common complaint. In fact about one-in-ten will have to see a doctor for a painfully stubborn thumb. And women are 6-times more likely than men to have a problem. Here's Dennis Douda for the Mayo Clinic News Network.
"When I'm on a roll I can do a quilt a week."
Gina Larson has a passion. Once she gets going, it's hard to keep up with her.
But, she almost had to fold up shop because of severe arthritis in an achy thumb.
"Any movement in my thumb hurt. My, my left hand was very, very weak."
Gina started to measure her disability in quilter's time.
"I can usually do a binding on a quilt in an evening and it would take me two or three 'cause I'd have to stop every half an hour and sit here or go and get ice or take a pain pill."
"Affects about 8 to 12 percent of the population."
Gina turned to Mayo Clinic Orthopedic surgeon Dr, Sanj Kakar for help. Next to carpal tunnel syndrome, Dr. Kakar says thumb arthritis is the most common reason people come to see him.
"Affects over 50 percent of women over 70 years of age. So that's a lot of, a lot of people affected. And up to a third of post-menopausal women are affected by basilar thumb joint arthritis, as well."
Dr. Kakar says the mechanics at the base of your thumb are complicated with 16 ligaments, 9 muscles, and numerous nerves.
To better study its complex dynamics and range of motion, Mayo Clinic is even refining a 4-D CT scanner.
When that motion became so painful for Gina that pain medication, splints and corticosteroid injections failed to help, Dr. Kakar suggested surgery.
"We'll cut down onto the bone and then remove that arthritic bone, the trapezium."
"There are different suspension procedures that one can do, and one you can use tendons to try and sort of create a belt and braces method to hold up the thumb joint."
Dr. Kakar says surgery is successful for 80-to-90 percent of patients.
"Feel better than new."
For the Mayo Clinic News Network, I'm Dennis Douda.
If the thumb joint wears out but there is no arthritis, Dr. Kakar says joint replacement surgery is often a good option. About 20% of patients are good candidates for that.
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