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The Science of Sausage Fingers

You may not have sausage fingers now, but wait till the rheumatoid arthritis hits

Depending on who you ask, I either have gorgeous petite doll hands or creepy little mouse hands. It’s a miracle I’m even typing this. For the most part, our hand size is simply a matter of bone structure and genetic determination, but as we age, some of us will change. Some of our hands will bloat. Some of us will develop what is lovingly known as… sausage fingers. 

Odds are, that dude you called “sausage fingers” in high school was just born that way — he had big, meaty hands, and that’s perfectly fine. Sausage fingers that develop later in life, after your hands are done growing, are a common symptom of inflammation, though. As a broad term, sausage fingers are medically referred to as dactylitis, and according to Healthline, dactylitis can itself have multiple causes, but it’s most commonly the result of different forms of arthritis. While psoriatic arthritis can cause individual segments of the fingers to swell and become sausage-y, rheumatoid arthritis will typically cause all the fingers to become uniformly sausage-like. 

In either case, this swelling can be uncomfortable. Not only does the arthritis itself cause pain in the joints and tissue of the fingers, but having your hand essentially double in size obviously causes some tenderness on its own. For some people, the swelling is so severe that they can’t even form a fist. What’s the point of having sausage fingers if you can’t punch people with your meaty claws? Sad. 

You may be thinking, “Psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis? Couldn’t be me.” Well, buck-o, the Centers for Disease Control reports that 22.7 percent of the adult U.S. population has some form of arthritis. Arthritis rates also vary dramatically by state and county: In parts of West Virginia, for example, as many as 42.7 percent of adults have been diagnosed with arthritis. Precisely why that’s the case is unclear, though there’s a correlation between arthritis and further health problems like obesity. 

So, there’s a solid statistical chance that you could experience arthritic pain leading to sausage fingers at some point in your life. More than that, though, there’s a third form of arthritis that could potentially impact anyone at any time. It’s called reactive arthritis, and it’s the result of inflammation from a bacterial infection. Food-borne infections can cause it, as can sexually-transmitted ones. Sausage fingers from reactive arthritis are temporary, but still something that could easily happen to you. 

If you just have sausage fingers all the time because you were born to have big hands, well, that’s between you and God. Sausage fingers are really only a problem when they’re painful, and usually then they’re just a symptom of a bigger arthritis problem that needs to be treated in consultation with an actual medical professional. Really, sausage fingers could happen to anyone — I may have dainty princess hands today, but that could all change tomorrow.