DeQuervain’s disease

What is it?

An individual who is suffering with De Quervain’s disease has painful tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. Tendons are the ropes that the muscle uses to pull the bone and move a joint. These tendons are visible on the side of your wrist when straightening your thumb.  The pain is felt along the back of your thumb and wrist although this may travel to the forearm. This can be caused if the tendons around the base of the thumb are irritated or constricted. Thumb motion may be painful particularly when grasping or pinching an object. In some cases, the individual feels pain if pressure is applied to the side of the wrist, such as with tight watch-straps or jewellery. 

What is the cause?

Doctors are still not certain what causes De Quervain’s disease. This condition may develop at all ages, but is common in young mothers soon after the delivery of their child. This is possibly with hormonal changes or fluid retention or unaccustomed activity in looking after the newborn child. There is little evidence that De Quervain’s disease is caused by overuse of your hands but this certainly will aggravate the pain. Often individuals describe a feeling warmth suggestive of inflammation but studies have proven this isn't the case.

What are the symptoms?

  • Swelling around the affected area [compared with the opposite wrist]
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Pain on the thumb side of your wrist and aggravated when gripping an object or by lifting the thumb
  • Occasionally a clicking or locking of the thumb during movement

What is the treatment?

 De Quervain’s  disease can be very painful but is not harmful. Some mild cases can recover without treatment within a few weeks. The treatment options are :-

  • Avoid activities that cause pain as much as possible.
  • Using a wrist/thumb splint.
  • Steroid injection is often used and relieves pain in 70% of cases.
  • Surgical decompression of the tendon tunnel.
  • Surgery maybe recommended in severe cases or after failure of non-surgical treatment.
  • Surgery is usually done under local anaesthetic.

Regardless of which treatment is needed, normal use of the hand can usually be resumed once comfort and strength have returned.