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All About De Quervain’s Disease: Symptoms, Prognosis, and Treatments

All About De Quervain’s Disease: Symptoms, Prognosis, and Treatments

From scratching an itch to making a living, you rely on your hands every minute of every day, so life comes to a screeching halt when something hinders their function.

You may know about carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis, but several lesser-known injuries and diseases can afflict your hands and wrists — and knowing how to spot the symptoms and when to seek treatment can save you time and pain. 

As a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and former team doctor for the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox, Dr. Neil Ghodadra specializes in musculoskeletal conditions and can help you get to the bottom of your hand and wrist pain.

De Quervain's disease — named after the doctor who first described it — is one of the many conditions that cause hand and wrist pain, one of Dr. Ghodadra’s areas of expertise. Here, he discusses its symptoms, treatments, and prognosis.

What is De Quervain’s Disease?

De Quervain's disease — also called De Quervain’s tenosynovitis — is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of your wrist. If you have De Quervain's, it will likely hurt when you turn your wrist, grasp something, or make a fist.

The exact cause of De Quervain's isn't known, but the condition is more common in middle-aged women. Certain activities and occupations involving repetitive hand or wrist movement increase the risk.

Signs you may have De Quervain’s disease

A distinct set of symptoms characterizes De Quervain's disease, primarily affecting your wrist and thumb. The most common symptoms include:

  1. Pain near the base of your thumb. This is typically the first sign of De Quervain's disease. The pain may appear either gradually or suddenly.
  2. Swelling near the base of your thumb. Due to inflammation, you may notice swelling in this area.
  3. Difficulty moving the thumb and wrist. In severe cases, you may experience difficulty in performing tasks that involve grasping or pinching.
  4. A "sticking" or "stop-and-go" sensation in your thumb when trying to move it. This occurs because the inflamed tendons can't glide as smoothly as they should.
  5. Numbness along the back of your thumb and index finger. Less common, this symptom may occur due to the inflammation-compressed nerve fibers.

Remember, if you're experiencing persistent symptoms, it's essential to consult with Dr. Ghodadra for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.

Diagnosis and prognosis

Typically, Dr. Ghodadra diagnoses De Quervain's disease through a simple physical examination — he may perform the Finkelstein test, which involves bending your thumb across the palm of your hand and bending your fingers down over your thumb. If this causes pain on the thumb side of your wrist, you may have De Quervain's disease.

The prognosis for De Quervain's is generally good. With appropriate treatment, symptoms usually improve within a few weeks to months. However, if left untreated, the pain can spread into the thumb, forearm, or both.

Treatment for De Quervain’s disease

When treating De Quervain's disease, Dr. Ghodadra aims to alleviate your pain and reduce swelling. His treatment recommendations are usually noninvasive. For example, he may suggest resting your thumb and wrist and participating in physical therapy to strengthen your wrist. Often, over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs bring enough relief to get you through the acute stage.

In more severe cases, Dr. Ghodadra may recommend corticosteroid injections or surgery. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and swelling to relieve pain. Surgery, on the other hand, aims to create more space for the inflamed tendons, thereby reducing pressure and friction.

How to prevent De Quervain’s disease

While De Quervain's Disease isn’t entirely preventable, you can take steps to reduce your risk. Beneficial preventive measures include avoiding repetitive thumb movements, taking frequent breaks during activities, and using a splint to restrict the movement of your thumb and wrist.

If you suspect De Quervain’s disease or have hand and wrist pain you can’t explain, schedule an appointment with NEIL GHODADRA, M.D., for an accurate diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan that will relieve your pain and restore function. Call us in West Los Angeles, California, at 310-929-4787 today. 

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