Updated 19 January 2017

This man's graphic surgery photos show just how devastating rheumatoid arthritis can be

These shocking photos of Dietrich Sölter's hand after undergoing invasive surgery reveal just how debilitating rheumatoid arthritis can be! Warning: graphic content

A 29-year-old man from America has been making headlines all over the world after sharing graphic photos of what his hand looks like after a surgical procedure to correct defects caused by a combination of arthritic conditions.

29-year-old Dietrich Sölter from Seattle has been battling with debilitating rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis, pustular arthritis and connective tissue disease for the last eight years. He recently started a Go Fund Me account where he has been raising money to cover the cost of the corrective surgery he urgently needs.

His crippling combination of conditions has taken a severe toll on his body and causes him to be in constant pain. The effects of the conditions are most evident in his hands and fingers. He explains that he suffers from a condition known as boutonniere deformity that is affecting both his hands. As a result of this, Dietrich can barely use his fingers – a major disability for anyone, but especially for him as he is currently studying towards a career in IT and computer repairs.

"The fingers are the most painful part of my body and feel as if someone is relentlessly pounding away at them with a hammer."

dietrich's fingers before the surgery

How Dietrich's fingers looked prior to surgery (Image courtesy of Go Fund Me).

Earlier this week, Dietrich underwent a special surgical procedure to fix the damage to the fingers on his left hand and give him better use of the hand. He found a surgeon who was willing to use a device known as Digit Widgets that will slowly straighten Dietrich's fingers over time. The procedure, coupled with physical therapy should over time give him much greater use of his fingers and hands. 

A friend of Dietrich's posted a series of extremely graphic photos of what Dietrich's hand looks like after surgery on the social sharing site Reddit. The shocking pictures show the devastating effect that rheumatoid arthritis and related conditions can have on the body.

dietrich having digit widgets placed in hand

Dietrich's hand during surgery to insert the Digit Widgets that will straighten out his fingers (Image courtesy of Reddit).

x-ray of digit widgets in dietrichs hand

An X-ray showing how the Digit Widgets are inserted into Dietrich's fingers (image courtesy of Reddit).

Lend a helping hand

Dietrich has successfully had the Digit Widgets inserted into his fingers in his left hand and is now hoping to raise the funds to have the same procedure performed on his right hand. Unfortunately his medical insurance will only cover 40% of the cost of the operation, so there is a shortfall of $6 500 that Dietrich will have pay himself. If you can help out in any way by donating some money, head over to his Go Fund Me profile.

About rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the peripheral joints. It most commonly affects the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees and feet. According to the South African Orthopaedic Journal, there is limited data on rheumatoid arthritis in South Africa, but it is believed that the condition affects approximately 1% of the population in developing countries.


Ask the Expert

Arthritis expert

Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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