My Stubby Thumb: Mutation or Super Power?

 “What’s wrong with your thumb?”
“Can I see them?”

“Did you crush it when you were little or something or is it just a deformity?”

I have heard these questions about my thumb my entire life. Because one of my thumbs is different than the other. Not just different than the other thumbs, but different from most thumbs. Look down at your thumbs right now they probably look something like this:

Normal thumb
Normal Thumb


Okay maybe yours is nicer than mine and you have time to actually take care of your nails, but most thumbs look something like this. But not my right hand  thumb. My right hand thumb looks like this:

Stubby thumb
Stubby thumb

My right hand thumb is stubby. Growing up, this was just a curiosity. I never really thought much about it. It was just my thumb. Occasionally I would get someone asking if I had an accident when I was small that had crushed it or something. I would assure them they had just grown that way. When bidden I would show my two thumbs beside each other and people would remark how strange it was and that would be that. It wasn’t until recently that I figured out once in for  all what was going on with my thumb.

I have a cool genetic variant known as brachydactyly type D (BDD for short). I like the name brachydactyly because it reminds me of something you would name a type of dinosaur. The brachydactyly literally means “shortness of the fingers and toes” and the type D refers to it being in the thumbs. It is more commonly known as “clubbed thumb” or “stub thumb”. Other names for this are “Potters thumb”, “shovel thumb”, “royal thumb”, “toe thumb”, or more ominously – the “murderers thumb”.

This type of thumb is sort of rare with only 0.4% of the population of Caucasian people in America having it. That’s like 4 out of 1000 people. And of those 4 out of 1000 people who have it, 3 of them have it on both thumbs. But not me. I’m the one out of 1000 that has just one stubby thumb. I don’t have any other fingers or toes that are affected by it. In other populations the prevalence can be up to 4% of the population.

After a bit of researching I figured out that brachydactyly type D is caused by a variant in the HOXD13 gene. It actually causes a skeletal change in the terminal phalanx of my thumb that just made it grow this way. I don’t call it a mutation because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, its just the way my thumbs grew. It can be autosomal dominant with variable expressivity and penetrance. It tends to have more of a complete penetrance in women so women are more likely to have it than men.

How I figured out that I had brachydactyly was through the mass media. Someone was looking at my thumbs saying how weird they were when someone else remarked, “Oh, they’re like Megan Fox’s thumbs!”. So I looked up Megan Fox’s thumbs. And sure enough, there was her thumb looking stubby just like mine. I was astonished by all the negative things that people had to say about Megan Fox’s thumbs. She was included on one list of celebrity’s with deformities. I find this offensive because I do not consider my thumb to be a deformity. (Though my thumbs do make certain things harder, ex. I cannot light a lighter with my right hand thumb) Others have embraced her thumb. There’s even an entire website dedicated to her thumbs. (It has since been taken down).

And this is for good reason since one of the nicknames for the brachydactyly thumb is “Royal Thumb”. It is rumored that this type of thumb was common in the royal bloodlines of Europe, hence the name. The more ominous sounding “murderers thumb” comes from palm reading where the stubbed thumb is supposed to be a sign of an impulsive and angry and explosive nature, leading to murder. Overall I like the “Royal Thumb” better.

Growing up, my Mother was the worst for pointing out the differences in my thumbs. She would always grab my hands, feeling my stubby thumb with her fingers and frowning. It annoyed me then because I didn’t think it was a big deal. Little did I know that my Mother was certain that she must have crushed it when I was a baby and didn’t realize it. She was looking at thumb, full of guilt for something she couldn’t remember doing. She was the most excited when I told her that it was from brachydactyly and that I really was born that way. I hope this article will bring peace of mind to everyone out there that wonders what is up with their weird thumb(s).

Why Oral Contraceptives are Not a Magical Cure: Consequences and Ignoring the Proof

Why Oral Contraceptives are Not a Magical Cure: Consequences and Ignoring the Proof

While oral contraceptives were originally developed to be a method of birth control, they are now prescribed by doctors as a solution to almost every complaint a woman could possibly have. According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute done in 2011, 18% of women between the ages 18-44 take oral contraceptives. In the same study it was reported that 58% of women take oral contraceptives for reasons other than preventing pregnancy (That’s over half!), with women citing menstrual pain, irregular periods, heavy bleeding, and acne as the leading reasons for taking the pill.

I constantly see oral contraceptives being glorified in the media as the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to women. These portrayals worry me because women’s rights have come to be equated with the ­­­­right to oral contraceptives in many cases. However, I believe that women have the right to receive the best health care and have informed consent about what they are putting in their bodies. The decision to take oral contraceptives for birth control or for other reasons should be empowering to women so they can live their best lives. That’s why I have written this article, so you can know the truth about the dark side of oral contraceptives when you make the decision for your own body.

Like many other women from my generation I have long been on oral contraceptives for reasons that are not related to “birth control”. I started my period pretty late at age 13 and from then on it was month after month of hell. As a teenager I suffered from debilitating cramps that had me missing school, irregular periods, heavy bleeding, cystic acne, and horrible mood swings. Of course my doctor put me on birth control to regulate my periods.

Over the years I had many strange symptoms including migraines, anxiety, fatigue, digestive issues, frequent urination, and weight gain. During this time I went to doctor after doctor trying to figure out what was going on. One after the other told me that there was nothing wrong with me and didn’t offer any solutions. I was put on antidepressants to deal with the anxiety. I tried and tried to lose weight. No one believed me that I hardly ate anything and kept gaining weight. I tried running, weight lifting, interval training, yoga, swimming and rock climbing for exercise. I tried diet plan after diet plan. I counted calories. All of this resulted in little success. Doctors continued to tell me to try to lose weight through diet and exercise. I could tell they didn’t believe me when I tried to tell them what I ate and how much I exercised. I felt pretty hopeless and didn’t know what to do.

Not once in those 10 years did a doctor ever suggest that the culprit behind all of these symptoms could be my oral contraceptive pill. I even asked doctors if birth control be contributing to these symptoms. They all dismissed my concerns. It wasn’t until I started doing my own research that I discovered the dark side of the pill. Oral contraceptives have serious side effects. An oral contraceptive pill is usually NOT a cure for hormonal issues or period problems. When I went into my doctor as a teenager with my heavy painful periods and acne I was put onto birth control to “regulate” my periods. Birth control does not “regulate” your hormones. It turns them off and replaces them with synthetic hormones. It turns off your cycle, it doesn’t regulate it. When you come off the pill chances are that the symptoms and porblems that you had before will come back. These symptoms are your body trying to tell you something is wrong. By taking birth control you are only masking these problems, not fixing them. Of course, this only applies to women who take oral contraceptives for reasons other than preventing pregnancy.

Cons to Taking Oral Contraceptives
1. Birth control contains synthetic hormones. Most people explain that birth control contains estrogen and progesterone. This is a lie! Birth control pills contain synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone. These synthetic hormones are not the same as the ones your body makes. Some of the synthetic hormones in birth control are ethinylestradiol and progestin. The effects of many of these synthetic hormones are negative and can be dangerous. For instance, one of the side effects of the synthetic progestin drospirenone in the birth control Yaz is responsible for the increased risk of blood clots. Natural progesterone has no such risk.

2. Long term use of oral contraceptives leads to vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the body. This is a little known side effect of long term use of birth control pills that can take years for you to start noticing. It has been shown that oral contraceptives deplete your body of many vitamins:

In fact, many of the side effects of birth control come from this long term vitamin and mineral deficiency.

3. Oral contraceptives have small side effects that aren’t negligible. Birth control also has many other effects which are not considered to be “serious” by medical establishment. However, that doesn’t mean these side effects are negligible to the woman taking them. Many times when I would ask my doctor about the risks of birth control I was told that the only side effect I should worry about was blood clots and since I wasn’t a smoker I shouldn’t worry. But there are many side effects of birth control which are very real and affect women every day that doctors largely ignore and don’t tell women about. These include depression, anxiety, fatigue, hair loss, skin problems, weight gain, low libido, changes to your sense of smell, insomnia, trouble building muscle, digestive issues, reduced bone density, gum disease, and lower thyroid hormones. This article “How The Pill Can Seriously Affect A Woman’s Health ” has a nice breakdown of these side effects and studies that have proven the link between these side effects and oral birth control usage.
4. Oral contraceptive use has been linked to serious diseases such as cancer. There are studies that show elevated levels of estrogen (that you get when you take the pill) can lead to an increased risk for the development of breast cancer, cervical cancer, and thyroid cancer.
5. Development of hormonal imbalances and other diseases. Ironically, the oral contraceptives are often prescribed by doctors to treat hormonal balances can actually cause them or worsen symptoms of them. Long term use can cause
hormonal imbalances such as PCOS, estrogen dominance, hypothyroidism, and insulin resistance.

My intention with this article was not to condemn the use of birth control pills, but only to draw attention to very real effects. Many women these days that receive prescriptions for birth control aren’t really practicing informed consent as many of these effects are never mentioned. Some doctors may not even be aware of some of these problems as they do not cover women’s hormones in detail in medical school (I say this based on my own conversations with people who have gone through medical school). There has also been a recent political push to make oral contraceptives even more accessible to the public. I believe that this could lead to even more women being put on these pills without truly knowing the risks.

After learning this information about oral contraceptives, I have made the informed choice to not put these compounds into my body. Someone else may make a different decision based on the information. What is important is that you know the real risks and benefits before making that choice.


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