Abnormal numbers of fingers and toes
Polydactyly, also known as hyperdactyly, is a condition in which a baby is born with extra digits, for example six fingers (or six digits, to be technically accurate) on a hand or six toes on a foot. The extra finger or toe is made up of soft tissue, and may have bone but will generally not have a joint. It can have the appearance of just a small bump or a completely formed (though generally smaller) extra digit.
The extra toe or finger on a patient with hyperdactyly is most often located on the outer side of the hand or foot, next to the pinky finger or baby toe. In rare instances it can be located in between the middle fingers or toes, or may protrude from the wrist in the case of an extra finger. The extra digit is rarely functional.
Polydactyly Causes and Symptoms
Polydactylism is often associated with other birth defects, but it can also be caused by a single gene mutation. It occurs in approximately 1 out of every 500 births. It has no symptoms other than the appearance of the extra digit.
If untreated, some forms of polydactyly can progress to a point where they begin to impact other areas of the body. For example, walking in a way that accommodates an extra toe may cause strain on leg muscles or ankles. The condition should be regularly monitored by a doctor to ensure this does not occur.
Many patients can learn to function completely normally with their extra digit, but particularly in the case of an extra toe, the digit can be difficult to accommodate (for example, finding footwear can be a challenge). Surgery is an option to remove the extra digit, though it can be a complicated procedure to correct twisted bones, missing nerves or malformed joints.
It's best to undergo corrective surgery in early childhood, before the deformity progresses and so that the child can quickly learn to develop normal behavior with the hand or foot. If a patient elects not to have surgery, he or she can undergo therapy to adapt to their condition and learn to function normally.
Conditions Related to Polydactyly
- Syndactyly (or the condition of having webbed toes or fingers)
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