A simple activity babies love doing is to reach out and grasp toys to play with. Any restriction in play, pertaining to how the baby can fully stretch all fingers and bend all of them have an impact on the quality of play engaged in.
One of the conditions which may limit such play activities is camptodactyly - having one or more fingers bent forwards with a difficulty in fully straightening them.
You may realise the bend in the joints in the fingers at birth may seem not to be painful and baby is unable to fully straighten finger(s).
The bend in the finger usually occurs in the joint close to the palm. Early treatment is always recommended to improve health outcome.
The fingers involved may be only the middle, ring or little finger (s) and may be associated with other health conditions in the child. Many babies have the little finger affected most, followed by the ring finger.
The affected fingers assume an arch –shape. In many instances however, the only problem present may be the bending in the finger(s).
You may recognise the baby’s inability to straighten the affected fingers as compared to the other fingers during play.
The condition may affect fingers of both hands or just one hand and it affects both boys and girls equally.
The degree of bending may be the same in all the affected fingers or more pronounced in one finger as compared to the other fingers.
In some instances the joint of that finger close to the palm may be slightly bent upwards away from the palm and may hinder an effective grasp of a toy.
Most babies present with no pain while other babies may have a slight swelling with pain in affected fingers as compared with the unaffected ones.
The joints of fingers in some babies can be straightened easily by you but it goes back into the bent position when you let go of the finger.
In other babies the finger would be difficult to straighten and may seem stuck.
In cases where the condition is mild, the baby is able to reach out and grasp toys without the arch in the finger becoming a problem.
However in severe cases, the finger may seem stuck in the bent position and this may limit the baby’s ability to fully grasp an object.
The main cause of the condition is unknown. However, the factors which may predispose a child to the condition may be a family member with that condition.
Abnormalities in the bone alignment, muscles, tough cords and surrounding structures around the joint may also predispose the baby to the condition.
These abnormalities may result in an imbalance between bending and straightening of the affected joint and also may cause changes in surrounding structures – tough cords, skin - at the affected joint.
You may notice in some babies that the affected joint does not have extra or adequate skin to allow a full straightening at the joint.
Another predisposing factor may be the weakness in the muscles which assists in straightening the finger.
Some babies develop the condition as a result of other health conditions.
The baby is examined thoroughly and the available range in movement in both affected and unaffected fingers are observed.
The joints of the fingers are also checked for flexibility and function. Investigations which may be conducted include x-rays to confirm or rule out other conditions.
The writer is a Senior Physiotherapist at the 37 Military Hospital