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De Quervain's Tenosynovitis - Topic Overview

What is de Quervain's tenosynovitis?

De Quervain's (say "duh-kair-VANZ") tenosynovitis, also called De Quervain's, is a problem that makes the bottom of your thumb and the side of your wrist hurt. When you have de Quervain's, the ropey fiber (tendon) that helps move your thumb away from your fingers becomes swollen. See a picture of de Quervain's camera.gif.

What causes de Quervain's?

People can get de Quervain's when they hurt or use the thumb or wrist too much. Common activities that need your wrist and thumb can cause the problem. Some activities that might cause de Quervain's are:

  • Wringing out wet clothes.
  • Hammering.
  • Skiing.
  • Knitting.
  • Lifting heavy objects such as a jug of milk, taking a frying pan off of the stove, or lifting a baby out of a crib.

If you are pregnant or if you have diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, you are more likely to get de Quervain's. More women than men have de Quervain's. You can get the disease at any age. Most people who have de Quervain's are women between the ages of 30 and 50.

What are the symptoms?

De Quervain's may cause pain when you twist your wrist. You might also have pain if you grab something between your thumb and finger. Many people hear a funny sound like a squeak, crackle, snap, or creak when they move the wrist or thumb.

The bottom of the thumb or the side of the wrist might also be sore or swollen. This can make it hard to move your thumb or wrist. The back of the thumb and index finger may also feel numb. Sometimes de Quervain's can cause a small bump on the thumb side of the wrist. If you don't get treatment, the pain can spread up your forearm or down into your thumb.

How is de Quervain's diagnosed?

Your doctor will check for swelling, tenderness, or numbness around the base of the thumb. There may also be crackling or popping when you move your thumb.

Your doctor may or may not use the Finkelstein test to help diagnose de Quervain's. To do this test, make a fist with your thumb inside. Then bend your wrist outward toward your little finger. If you feel pain on the thumb side of your wrist, then you most likely have de Quervain's.

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