Osteoarthritis Risk: Handy Finding
Finger Length Could Be a Clue About Your Osteoarthritis Odds
Jan. 3, 2008 -- Is your ring finger longer than your index finger? That may
show a risk for knee osteoarthritis, especially in women, a British study
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. In osteoarthritis, the
protective cartilage that cushions the ends of bones within joints gradually
wears away. It can affect almost any joint in the body but commonly involves
the weight-bearing joints: the knees, hips, and spine.
Osteoarthritis becomes more common with age and extra weight. Finger length
may also be a risk factor, according to the new British study.
It's not about whether your fingers are long or short. Instead, it's about
the ratio between the length of your index finger (the second finger, counting
from the thumb) and your ring finger (the fourth finger).
Handful of Osteoarthritis Risk
The British study included more than 2,000 people with severe knee and/or
hip osteoarthritis and more than 1,100 people without knee or hip
The researchers, based at England's University of Nottingham, eyeballed the
length of participants' ring and index fingers, following up with hand X-rays
for precise measurements.
The key finding: People whose index finger was shorter than their ring finger were
about twice as likely to have knee osteoarthritis, compared with other
That pattern was stronger for women than for men. Among women, those with an
index finger shorter than
their ring finger were three times more likely to have knee osteoarthritis.
The finding may also be true for hip osteoarthritis, but because most
participants with hip arthritis also had knee osteoarthritis, it was hard for
the researchers to confirm that.
Other osteoarthritis risk factors -- including age, sex, BMI (body mass
index, which relates height to weight), previous joint injuries, and physical
activity -- didn't explain the results.
Rheumatology professor Michael Doherty, MD, and colleagues aren't sure how
to explain their findings. They note that men are more likely than women to
have index fingers that are shorter than ring fingers, so hormonal factors may
be involved, but that's not certain.
The study appears in January's edition of Arthritis &