Health News

The grandmother with ‘lobster claw’ feet and deformed hands

Doctors left stunned as grandmother, 94, with ‘lobster claw’ feet and hands reveals she has lived her whole life unassisted and even KNITS for her family

  • The unnamed woman had a condition called split hand/split foot malformation
  • She had lived with it for her whole life, raised a son, and knitted for a hobby
  • Because of the condition she effectively only had three fingers and no thumbs
  • e-mail


A grandmother born with ‘lobster claw’ feet and hand deformities has surprised doctors by leading a normal life.

The 94-year-old, from East Sussex, went to hospital because she had confusion caused by a urinary tract infection.

While she was there, medics spotted her deformities and decided to examine her hands and feet.

The unnamed woman told doctors she had siblings, a son and three grandchildren who weren’t affected by the condition.

Other than her deformities, she was otherwise healthy, had managed her whole life without assistance, raised a son and regularly knitted for her family.

The unnamed 94-year-old had a condition called split hand/split food malformation (SHFM) which caused both her feet (pictured) to develop with the middle two toes missing

The grandmother-of-three was also missing both of her thumbs and two fingers from each hand (pictured) – the remaining fingers on her right hand had grown together to make one digit

The unnamed woman was diagnosed with a condition called ectrodactyly, also known as split hand/split foot malformation (SHFM).

The rare condition affects only around one in 18,000 people and is caused by a genetic defect which can be inherited or happen randomly in the womb.

Doctors discovered the woman had no thumbs and had just two fingers on each hand, an article in the journal BMJ Case Reports revealed.

  • Toddlers with asthma are more likely to be obese ‘because… Brexit may be ‘catastrophic’ on cancer research and trigger… Too much sugar makes children more violent and more likely… Swallowing a VIBRATING capsule could relieve constipation by…

Share this article

The remaining fingers on her left hand were ‘largely intact’ and the woman was somehow still able to knit.

Her feet were both missing and the middle two toes and the two smaller toes were joined together which, the study authors said, gave them ‘a classical “lobster claw” deformity’.

X-rays revealed she had grown most finger bones in the right place but they were either shortened or at an abnormal angle.

The woman had managed to live nearly a century without help, raised a son and had a regular hobby of knitting despite essentially having only three fingers

Doctors did X-rays which revealed bones were missing from the woman’s feet and the remaining two toes on each foot had joined together so she was left with what looked like two digits – in what experts called a ‘classical lobster claw’

Most of the woman’s hand bones except the thumbs had begun to grow normally, X-rays showed, but they had become stunted or bent at abnormal angles

Her feet, however, appeared to be completely missing the bones of the middle two toes and were the same on both sides.

Doctors could find no signs of an illness or syndrome which had caused the woman’s condition and decided it was just a random genetic error before she was born.

They wrote: ‘She had carried out a normal life despite being significantly affected with deformed hands and feet, raised a child without any support and had a regular hobby of knitting.’

Reconstructive surgery or prosthetics could be used to treat someone with SHFM but the woman had coped so well for nearly a century she didn’t need therapy.

Split hand/split foot malformation can either be inherited from a parent or occur as a result of a spontaneous gene mutation before a baby is born.

People with the condition do not tend to have a shorter life expectancy if it isn’t part of a syndrome which could shorten life. 


Split hand/split foot malformation, known medically as ectrodactyly, happens when someone is born with deformed hands and feet which are missing the middle fingers and toes.

The condition is rare and affects only around one in every 18,000 babies.

SHFM is caused by a genetic mutation before birth which can either be inherited or happen spontaneously when a baby is in the womb. It can be part of another syndrome with other symptoms, or can happen on its own.

When the middle toes or fingers are missing it can give hands or feet the appearance of lobster claws. 

SHFM is diagnosed at birth when it can be seen that a baby is missing fingers or toes.

Treatment of the condition can involve reconstructive surgery or prosthetics to help people live with the disability.

Source: National Organization for Rare Disorders   

Source: Read Full Article