A woman’s severe rheumatoid arthritis caused her to develop a bizarre condition known as “telescoping fingers,” according to a case report released this week.

A 69-year-old woman in Turkey went to a rheumatology clinic for treatment of her “severe joint deformities,” according to a case report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.


The patient, who was not identified, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis about 18 years earlier, and various treatments did not help the condition, which had become so severe her knuckles swelled to the point that her fingers were displaced and leaned toward her pinky fingers, a condition known as ulnar deviation, doctors wrote.

An X-ray of the woman's hands. (The New England Journal of Medicine ©2019)

Further examination of her hands “showed shortened fingers with loss of active finger flexion and an inability to make a fist,” according to the report.

An X-ray showed that the woman – whose elbows, wrists, knees and left ankle were also swollen – was suffering from arthritis mutilans, or “telescoping fingers,” a condition that “occurs when the bones dissolve and soft tissues cannot hold the fingers up and they end up pulling together in a heap-like fashion,” as per Medical News Today.

"The observed telescoping phenomenon is a consequence of this bone resorption," the doctors wrote.

A doctor treating the woman gently pulled her finger tips to temporarily straighten her fingers. (The New England Journal of Medicine ©2019)


Arthritis mutilans is often referred to as “telescoping fingers” because it resembles the way a telescope folds back into itself. It’s rare in people with rheumatoid arthritis, affecting only about 4 percent of people with the condition, according to the medical website.

One of the doctors treating the woman was able to gently pull her fingers to temporarily straighten them. She was given various medications to alleviate some of the pain and swelling but her hand functionality remained impaired, according to the report.