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Health A-Z

Osteophytes: A knuckle on my knuckle

The knuckle on my thumb is growing pointed on one side. It feels like the bone is growing and the thumb clicks quite loudly and frequently. Any ideas?

Dr Fred Kavalier answers your health question:

Bony growths that gradually appear on joints are known as osteophytes, or bone spurs. It feels like the bone is growing, because that is exactly what is happening. The bone grows outwards from the joint surface as the body attempts to compensate for some problem inside the joint. Osteophytes usually occur in arthritic joints. The extra bone is the body's attempt to enlarge the joint surface and decrease the stress that the joint is feeling. The click when you move your thumb may well be a symptom of arthritis within the thumb joint.There's probably not much that you can or should do about the osteophyte. They can be surgically removed, but this is rarely done unless there is a lot of pain or difficulty in using the joint as is the case when they develop around the joints of the spine, for example.

Please mail your questions for Dr Fred to health@independent.co.uk. He regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.