Pacifica Orthopedics, Huntington Beach, California.

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What is trigger thumb?


Trigger thumb is the name given to a condition which actually affects different digits of the hand, often the thumb, but also the ring and middle finger.

The condition is really one of inflammation of the tendons in the hand and in particular that arriving at the base of and operating the thumb or one of the fingers. The tendons each run up a sheath up the digit concerned. The inflammation of the tendon in the restricting sheath renders the tendon oversized which in turn makes its movement difficult. Total immobility can result particularly in the direction of moving the thumb and fingers in together (flexion). The area concerned will be tender to the touch.

The patient is left with pain on the digit and stiffness or immobility of the joint. The trigger part of the name comes from the sticking or clicking of the movement as the bulging tendon is forced to move through the constricting sheath.

In adults the condition usually occurs over the age of 40. The inflammation may be the result of over use or an arthritic condition. It can also be the result of injury. Often the immediate cause is not clear.

People suffer the effect on both hands at equal rates but it is likely to be felt more severely on the dominant hand. The risk of acquiring the condition rises with age and is more prevalent in women than in men. People with other hand conditions are more prone to suffer and about 10% of people with diabetes also develop trigger thumb. Over the general population about 2% of people will suffer at some stage.

Small children can also have this condition although they may only notice some aching and stiffness. This is likely to be a congenital condition, caused in the womb. Your Orthopedic doctor can discuss the appropriate treatment options with you or your loved one.

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