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Inherited Disorders and Birth Defects

Missing hand defect

10/22/2008

Question:

A friend was born without a hand. He has a partial palm with tiny fingers and thumb. What would cause is and is this hereditary?

Answer:

What you describe sounds most likely to be a random birth defect. 3-5 % of all babies born each year are born with some type of birth defect. Most isolated birth defects, situations where there are no other abnormalities present, usually are not inherited but are due to a combination of genes and environmental influences during development.

If what you describe is the only problem, there could be a number of different reasons for what caused it. While a cause for such birth defects might be identified, such as some type of environmental exposure during fetal development, most of the time no cause is ever found.

If a person has other problems (sometimes very subtle) in addition to the abnormality of the hand, then it could be genetic and potentially something that could be passed on to children.

If your friend has questions, I would recommend that he or she talk to a geneticist or genetic counselor about the defect. By examining the hand, they may be able to be more specific about a cause. Your friend can locate a genetics center near you at the National Society of Genetic Counselors’ Resource Center website listed below.

Related Resources:

National Society of Genetic Counselors Resource Center

For more information:

Go to the Inherited Disorders and Birth Defects health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Anne   Matthews, RN, PhD Anne Matthews, RN, PhD
Associate Professor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University