Heberden’s nodes are small bony growths that appear on the joint closest to the tip of your finger. Along with Bouchard’s nodes, Heberden’s nodes are a symptom of osteoarthritis of the hands. They can cause pain and limited motion in your hands. Treatment for Heberden’s nodes may include medication, hand therapy and surgery, in severe cases.
Heberden’s nodes are small, pea-sized bony growths that occur on the joint closest to the tip of the finger, also called the distal interphalangeal joint. Heberden’s nodes are a symptom of osteoarthritis (OA) of the hand.
Heberden’s nodes are named after the doctor who described them, William Heberden, Sr., MD.
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Bouchard nodes are a similar symptom. They occur on the middle joints of the fingers.
Arthritis is loss of cartilage (the smooth, gliding surface at the ends of bones). The joint loses this smooth cartilage and leaves rough bony ends to rub together. This leads to inflammation of the lining of the joint (the capsule) and subsequent pain. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, meaning the breakdown of cartilage and inflammation happens over time. It typically affects older adults.
When osteoarthritis affects your hands, your finger joints can become stiff and painful — the rough bone doesn't glide as smoothly as the cartilage does.
Osteoarthritis of the hands is quite common. About half of women and 1 in 4 men will have osteoarthritis of the hands by age 85. Heberden’s nodes are a common symptom of osteoarthritis of the hands.
A finger joint is made of two bones that fit together. They glide easily when your bones move, thanks to the smooth cartilage. But when the cartilage starts to wear out, your bones don’t fit together as easily.
As cartilage breaks down, your body responds by growing new bone at the joint. The new bone growths are called nodes or spurs. When they appear at the finger’s end joint, they are called Heberden’s nodes.
If you have Heberden’s nodes, which are a sign of advanced osteoarthritis, you may have symptoms such as:
It may be difficult to perform daily tasks, like opening bottles or fastening buttons. You may feel frustrated at your limited range of motion.
Your provider can diagnose osteoarthritis and Heberden’s nodes by examining your hands. They may also use an X-ray.
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for treating osteoarthritis. Treatment aims to reduce pain and help you move again. Your healthcare provider may recommend:
If Heberden’s nodes and other osteoarthritis symptoms bother you, and nonsurgical options haven’t helped, talk to your healthcare provider. You may want to consider surgery.
Surgical options for people with osteoarthritis at the last joint of the finger include joint fusion, to remove worn-out cartilage and join (fuse) the bones.
You can take steps to limit the effects of osteoarthritis all over the body. To live a healthy, active life with Heberden’s nodes:
See your healthcare provider if you:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Heberden’s nodes are small bony growths that appear at the finger joint closest to the tip of your finger. Bouchard’s nodes, a similar symptom, appear at the finger’s middle joint. These nodes are symptoms of osteoarthritis of the hands. Heberden’s nodes can cause pain, stiffness and limited motion in your fingers, making daily tasks difficult. Treatment can ease the symptoms. Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice any change in your hands or fingers.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/20/2021.
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