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What is trigger finger?

 In Ask an Expert, Pulse Blog, Rheumatology

Q: What options are available for treating trigger finger?

Trigger finger is one of the most common causes of hand pain. About 2 percent of people get it. Women in their 40s and 50s are particularly susceptible, as are individuals who do a lot of gripping and grasping for their jobs.

Trigger finger can create a catching or popping feeling when you move your finger. It can prevent a finger or thumb from moving fully and can cause pain. Some people notice discomfort or a lump at the base of their finger.

The condition occurs when the tendon in the palm of your hand becomes swollen. This makes it difficult for the tendon to slide through the pulleys that keep the tendon next to the bone. If the tendon gets very swollen, it can get stuck, and you might need use the other hand to force the tendon through the pulley. In a healthy hand, the tendon will glide smoothly. You can see what trigger finger looks like here.

Certain conditions, such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, can increase the risk of trigger finger. However, oftentimes we don’t understand why people get it.

To treat trigger finger, we usually start with splinting the finger, modifying activities that make it worse (especially gripping and grasping), using cushioned gloves, applying ice, and trying anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen. If that is ineffective, the next step is often a steroid injection. Surgery is also an option. However, many patients live with trigger finger for years, modifying their activities when symptoms worsen.

—Esther Hwang, MD

Dr. Esther Hwang is a rheumatologist at Vancouver Clinic. She enjoys educating patients so that they can make informed decisions about their health. As one of the doctors in the only rheumatology group in Clark County, Dr. Hwang is honored to be able to provide rheumatology care close to her patients’ homes.

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