Objectives: To assess the specificity of dactylitis for the diagnosis of spondyloarthropathy, sarcoidosis, and gout; and to characterize dactylitis specifically associated with gout.
Methods: Dactylitis was prospectively assessed among all individuals presenting to the Arthritis Center of Northeast Ohio from 1986 to 1996.
Results: Dactylitis was observed in 12% of individuals with spondyloarthropathy, 17% with sarcoidosis, and 5% with gout, but not in 96 patients with rheumatoid arthritis or in 2,434 patients with osteoarthritis, neck or back pain, or collagen vascular diseases. Among individuals with spondyloarthropathy, dactylitis was present in 22% with psoriatic, 28% with Reiter's syndrome, and only 7% with undifferentiated spondyloarthropathy. Gouty dactylitis was found only in individuals with polyarticular disease.
Conclusions: Dactylitis is a valuable clue in the differential diagnosis of arthritis. Compared with the wider spectrum in children, sausage-shaped digits have only a few known causes in adults: Reiter's syndrome, psoriatic arthritis, sarcoidosis, flexor tendon sheath infections, and gout. In our series, the presence of dactylitis eliminated rheumatoid arthritis from the differential diagnosis.