A claw hand deformity can result in many physical and emotional challenges. Feeling insecure about the appearance of the hand, experiencing pain and stiffness, and being unable to complete certain everyday tasks can take their toll on the individuals.
Treatment for claw hand deformity may be possible if it is truly negatively affecting someone’s quality of life. In some cases, surgery for a claw hand may have more negatives than positives, so it’s something you should talk about with Dr. Arora. Make an appointment to speak with the hand doctor in Macomb, Howell, West Bloomfield, or Warren to better understand your options.
In the meantime, following are answers to a few questions you may have about claw hand deformity.
What is a Claw Hand Deformity, and What Causes It?
A claw hand is a deformity in which one or more fingers are bent into a position that makes the hand look like a claw. The condition may affect one or both hands.
It is considered a complete hand deformity when it involves all the fingers due to conditions such as ulnar and median nerve palsy. A partial deformity that affects the two fingers controlled by the ulnar nerve is known as an isolated ulnar nerve palsy.
The condition occurs when there is weakness or paralysis of hand muscles that are responsible for straightening the fingers. It is usually related to damage to a nerve that starts at the neck. However, there are many possible causes of claw hand deformity, which may be present at birth or appear later in life. They include:
- Nerve damage in the arm, such as ulnar palsy or cubital tunnel syndrome
- Congenital birth defect
- Specific genetic diseases
- Certain bacterial infections
- Trauma to the hand
A claw hand deformity is sometimes referred to as an “ape hand deformity,” although that term is very insensitive and politically incorrect.
Signs and symptoms of this condition include weakened muscles, numbness along the applicable nerve, and inability to move the thumb outward, straighten the fingers, or move the ring finger and pinky and other fingers that may be affected.
Diagnosing the Condition
Several other conditions have similar signs and symptoms. When you see the hand doctor, he will make efforts to eliminate the other possibilities in order to properly diagnose your condition. Other possibilities include but are not limited to:
- Dupuytren’s contracture, which can cause lumps and pits in the palm of the hand and force the fingers to bend into the palm.
- Cervical radiculopathy, which is an umbrella term to describe several conditions related to the inflammation or damage of a nerve root in the neck/cervical spine.
- Klumpke paralysis, a rare birth injury to the nerves around a newborn’s shoulder.
- Lower brachial plexopathy, which occurs when a group of nerves in the neck and arms do not operate correctly, resulting in a lack of movement in the arm and shoulder.
In order to diagnose a claw hand deformity, the hand doctor may recommend an electromyography and nerve condition studies.
Claw Hand Treatment Options
Claw hand can be treated through physical therapy, splinting, or surgery, such as a tendon transfer/graft.
Physical therapy has been shown to be highly effective in minimizing the effects of the condition. These include specific types of stretches as well as hand strengthening exercises.
Surgical options may be suitable if they would treat the underlying condition that is causing the claw hand deformity. If the condition is due to a serious burn or injury, for example, treating the burn may help.
However, if the condition was present at birth, surgical options could have negative effects, so talk with Dr. Arora to see if he would advise surgery in this case.
To discuss your options, schedule an appointment to see the hand surgeon at the southeast Michigan location closest to you.