Rare 'telescoping fingers' condition caused woman's bones to reabsorb

The 69-year-old patient was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 18 years prior.

Eerie X-rays portray a rare condition nicknamed "telescoping fingers," in which bone loss causes the fingers to buckle back into the hand, like a collapsing telescope.

A female patient, age 69, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 18 years prior and presented at a rheumatology clinic in Turkey with the condition, according to a case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week.

Her fingers could be stretched to their original length, but then retreated back into her hand when released. She could not completely flex her fingers, nor make a fist.

X-rays revealed that her bones had been reabsorbed as a late-state consequence of her severe arthritis.

Doctors treated her with a series of arthritis drugs, which reduced her pain and swelling but did not improve her hand functionality.

While an estimated 23% of Americans have some form of doctor-diagnosed arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, developing telescoping fingers is extremely rare, even among people with arthritis.

The first case of the telescoping condition, described in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, was documented in 1913, and referred to it as "la main en lorgnette," or opera-glass hand.