What is Arthritis Mutilans – Symptoms and Treatment

Arthritis Mutilans is a very severe but rare form of arthritis where it destroys the bone and cartilage in the joints, leading to deformation of the joints in the hands and feet. It causes bone resorption which is a process where bone material is lost or destroyed and leads to consequent collapse of soft tissue.

Symptoms of Arthritis Mutilans

  • Osteolysis is the primary symptom of this form of arthritis. osteo means bone and lysis means destruction. Hence in this condition, the bone is destroyed which in turn leads to irreversible deformity of the affected part and subsequent loss of it’s function.
  • This form of arthritis primarily affect the hands. In that, the joints of the fingers are progressively destroyed and the fingers ultimately collapse like in a telescope and hence also termed as telescoping fingers. The reason for this happening is, after the bones are dissolved the soft tissues have nothing to hold them upright and hence heap together.
  • A similar pattern is seen with feet and toes.
  • This condition is usually accompanied by psoriasis(an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the skin) or rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic and systemic inflammation of various organs, primarily the joints). Actually, these are found to occur prior to the actual onset of mutilans.
  • It is a progressive disease; that is, the symptoms get worse slowly, over a few years’ time.
  • In some cases, the bones are not reabsorbed, but the joints fuse together or get eroded away making the affected body part actually useless.
  • It also results in ankylosis that is the fusion of a joint, usually in an abnormal position.
  • In terminal cases, it results in what is commonly called “opera glass hand”. Here the fingers can be retracted and pulled out due to gross destruction and absorption of bones.

Treatment of Arthritis Mutilans

Early recognition of the disease is very essential to avoid permanent disabilities.

Medical Drugs

Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are a few OTC drugs that help reduce inflammation of the joints.


Tylenol, acetaminophen etc can reduce pain in the affected areas.


Prednisone and medrol dosepak are routinely used by physicians to control inflammation and pain. But prolonged usage leads to various side-effects.


Methotrexate is a widely used drug that slows down the disease process by modifying the immune system.


Biologic response modifiers stimulate the ability of the immune system to fight disease. Anti-TNF drugs bind interfere with inflammatory activity thus decreasing joint damage.

Topical Treatments

They help relieve minor arthritis pains and muscle pain; they could contain salicylate, capsaicin or mentho, all of them aimed at pain relief.

Natural Remedies

Some of the herbal remedies used for relief from arthritis are : dried ginger, garlic paste, cod liver oil, alfalfa grass, warm epsom salt baths, turmeric and sandal wood pastes.

Musculoskeletal Surgery

It includes joint replacement surgery and reconstructive surgery.

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