Extra Finger or Toe
Five children in 10,000 are born with an extra finger or toe. ‘Polydactyly’ is the medical name for this, and in some babies the extra digit appears fully formed, while in others there’s just a little stump. In half of all cases, the condition is hereditary. It rarely means there’s any other physical problem.
Years ago, physicians used to tie up the extra finger or toe, stopping the blood supply so that eventually the flesh died. The extra finger or toe has nerves just like any other part of the body so this was very painful! Doctors don’t do this anymore, and it is possible to have extra digits removed by surgery, though not all local hospitals will do this. The operation is a simple one done under a local anaesthetic, and once the hand has healed kids will have no other problems.
If you don’t or can’t have an extra finger or toe removed, doctors recommend taping it up to the next one. This not only makes it less obvious, but makes it easier putting on shoes, gloves etc.
Though having an extra finger or toe can be inconvenient under some circumstances, it shouldn’t actually impair kids’ ability to do things, but as they grow older and go to school, they may feel self-conscious and suffer from teasing. The psychological aspect can be harder to handle than the physical feature. For that reason most parents do opt for surgery, but there are plenty of celebrities who’ve spoken about their own experiences of polydactyly, offering proof that it’s completely normal. Bond girl and St Trinians star Gemma Arterton was born with six fingers on each hand, and subsequently had them removed. “I feel like we’re one-step ahead,” she’s said. “a sign of things to come. We could do more stuff if we had extra fingers – faster texting, emailing, better guitar-playing.”
Comments and Questions
Comments & Questions are now archived, but if you see anything on the site that worries you, please report it and one of our moderators will look at it as soon as possible.
Please note: Unfortunately Channel 4 cannot respond to individual inquiries. If you have any concerns, you can check out NHS Choices, but ultimately it is always best to check with a health professional.
The information provided on this website (including any NHS Choices medical information) is for use as information or for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. We do not warrant that any information included within this site will meet your health or medical requirements. This Embarrassing Bodies site does not provide any medical or diagnostic services so you should always check with a health professional if you have any concerns about your health.