Saturday, February 13, 2016

Heberden's nodes deserve more respect.

Wikipedia has the party line description of these buggers. Emphases mine.

Heberden's node

Heberden’s nodes are hard or bony swellings that can develop in the distal interphalangeal joints (DIP) … They are a sign of osteoarthritis and are caused by formation of osteophytes (calcific spurs) of the articular (joint) cartilage in response to repeated trauma at the joint.

Heberden's nodes typically develop in middle age, beginning either with a chronic swelling of the affected joints or the sudden painful onset of redness, numbness, and loss of manual dexterity. This initial inflammation and pain eventually subsides, and the patient is left with a permanent bony outgrowth that often skews the fingertip sideways.

Heberden's nodes are more common in women than in men, and there seems to be a genetic component involved in predisposition to the condition.

Let’s deconstruct that narrative, looking for internal contradictions.

Here’s one: “Repeated trauma … but sudden onset of redness … inflammation”. Really? Trauma? From what - typing? If it’s repeated trauma, why the sudden inflammatory onset? Hmm.

Here’s another: “calcific spurs”. So why are they “nodes” and not spikes? Why are they rounded, like things that grow from an internal nexus? Why do they grow so quickly? Why don’t they keep growing? Why don’t we call these “Herberden’s tumors”? Why are they universal by age 80?

Lastly, how do they grow so quickly? I’ve seen the become prominent in 2-3 weeks. That’s tumor class growth.

Really, we could be a bit more curious.

See also:

That 1940 article is fascinating, I’ll have to see if I can get the full article. We certainly don’t think of them as associated with breast cancer today.

I’d like to toss a few nodes in a blender and mine the slurry for non-human DNA.

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