What is Brachydactyly?

Brachydactyly is a genetic trait that can present as part of dwarfism.
The cause of brachydactyly varies, and in some cases affects legs and arms in addition to fingers and toes.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2014
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Brachydactyly is a genetic trait which causes people to have unusually short fingers and toes. It is a dominant trait, meaning that only one gene for brachydactyly needs to be inherited for the condition to present, and there are a number of different forms which the condition may take. As a general rule, people with brachydactyly can live normal, productive lives, although they may have difficulty in some careers due to their shortened digits.

Often, brachydactyly presents on its own, and it is not accompanied with any other physical abnormalities. However, it can also present as part of a syndrome such as dwarfism. The condition is caused by shortening or malformation of the bones in the hands and feet, and in some cases people may also have missing hand and foot bones. In some cases, all of the digits, while in other cases, some of the digits are normal. The effect of polydactyly can seem more extreme when there are missing bones, as it may cause a clubbed or otherwise unusual appearance.

The opposite of brachydactyly is arachnodactyly, in which the digits are abnormally long. The severity of both conditions can vary quite a bit, with some people simply having slightly stubby or slightly long fingers, while others are more severely disfigured. Individuals with mild brachydactyly generally do not require the assistance of adaptive devices or other help, while people with severely shortened fingers can benefit from tools which are designed to help them perform basic functions.

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In a family with a history of brachydactyly, the condition can pop up quite a lot, because it is a dominant trait, and it can also mutate, changing from generation to generation. A history of brachydactyly does not necessarily indicate a predisposition for other health problems, and if both parents are free of the condition, the child should be free of it as well.

Many congenital conditions like Down Syndrome are associated with brachydactyly. Because many of these conditions are extremely debilitating, brachydactyly is generally not viewed as a major cause for concern. In cases where brachydactyly could interfere with a patient's ability to care for him or herself, the patient may be shown how to use adaptive devices to help him or her feel more independent.

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Discuss this Article

anon310855
Post 11

My right hand is short -- the whole right hand -- but my parents are free of the condition. So, if I want to have children, will they get it too, and will I ever find a man who accept me like that?

anon288799
Post 10

It does show up in ultrasound, but the fetus needs to be 11 weeks and it had to be a powerful ultrasound scanning.

Normal screening does not show it, not even at 25 weeks.

The best option is to have the eggs screened, so the genetic patterns are known.

anon259103
Post 9

My friend has three short fingers on his right hand. His age is 27. Can this normalized now by any means? Please help.

anon256958
Post 8

It felt great to find that I'm not the only one to have this. My mother used to tell me that I used nail cutters too much and that the nail of my thumb got short.

anon162030
Post 6

Well it's good to know that I'm not an anomaly! I've got all over my hands symmetrically! Does anyone feel better now? I inherited it from my aunt.

anon143376
Post 5

no wonder why it cannot be fixed or so hard to find a doctor in north america. People already can receive surgery and fix those short finger problems in South Korea, and it is not expensive at all.

anon111246
Post 4

My thumbs have been like that since I can remember. My parents used to say it was caused by my cracking my knuckles. I used to tell kids that noticed that the tips of my thumbs were cut off and they save the thumb and just took the toenail to put on there. Yup the big toe is also like that. Lucky me, but I could be worse off.

anon80306
Post 3

I thought that my thumb being this way was a result of a car door injury when I was about five years old. Maybe it has been like this since I was born.

anon66678
Post 2

can it be detected and corrected before birth?

succulents
Post 1

Can the doctors tell if a baby will be born with this condition by the ultrasound?

Or is it something that doesn't "show up" until after birth and the normal stages of growth are not being passed?

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