Woman's bones 'shrank' in rare 'telescoping fingers' case

Woman's bones 'shrank' in rare 'telescoping fingers' case

An x-ray of a woman's hands has gone viral on social media for showing 'telescoping fingers' - in which the fingers buckle back into the hand.

The patient in question was a 69-year-old woman whose rheumatoid arthritis led to the bones of her fingers actually pushing back into her hands.  According to an article recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the woman first came to a rheumatology clinic for treatment of joint deformities.  Both of her hands were tender and swollen, and she also had severe pain in her wrist, elbow, knees, and left ankle joints.

An image of telescopic fingers. Credit: The New England Journal of Medicine

The patient went through an x-ray, and the examining doctor learned that the woman had experienced osteolysis of the ulna and radius, as well as in the bones of her fingers. Osteolysis occurs when bones lose minerals, namely calcium, become weaker until the bone tissue is ultimately destroyed.

The doctor who initially dealt with her case wrote: "Examination of the hands also showed shortened fingers with loss of active finger flexion and an inability to make a fist ... The observed telescoping phenomenon is a consequence of this bone resorption."

The patient was then diagnosed with 'arthritis mutilans', a rare and extremely serious form of chronic rheumatoid arthritis characterized by her joints actually collapsing into themselves. She was treated with a series of arthritis drugs, which reduced her pain and swelling, but she has not yet regained the functionality of her hand.

Per ABC News, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 23 per cent of Americans are currently living with some form of doctor-diagnosed arthritis. However, it is extremely rare for sufferers to develop telescoping fingers. The first case of the telescoping condition, described in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, was recorded back in 1913.