Plant thorn arthritis is a rare form of arthritis in which a plant thorn punctures a joint, causing inflammation.

Plant thorn arthritis may occur if people come into contact with thorns, such as through gardening, and a thorn punctures a joint.

Plant thorn arthritis can affect joints that come into contact with a plant thorn, such as the finger, knee, or ankle joints.

Plants that can cause plant thorn arthritis include plum trees, palm trees, and brambles. Types of brambles include:

  • berry bushes
  • blackthorn shrubs
  • cacti
  • bougainvillea
  • yucca
  • pyracantha
  • mesquite trees

This article examines plant thorn arthritis symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention tips.

Thorns that can cause plant thorn arthritis.Share on Pinterest
Yael Yolovitch/EyeEm/Getty Images

Plant thorn arthritis, or plant thorn synovitis, is a rare type of arthritis. It occurs when a thorn from a plant punctures a joint. Part of the thorn remains in the joint, causing inflammation.

Plant thorn arthritis can affect any joint that comes into contact with plant thorns, such as:

Plant thorn arthritis is typically monoarthritic, which means it only affects one joint.

Plant thorn arthritis causes symptoms similar to other types of inflammatory arthritis, such as:

  • skin discoloration
  • swelling of the joint
  • warmth
  • pain
  • limited range of motion

To diagnose plant thorn arthritis, doctors will examine a person’s physical symptoms and take a medical history.

Doctors may use an ultrasound scan to view the thorn fragments in the joint. They may also take blood tests to confirm joint inflammation.

It can be difficult to diagnose plant thorn arthritis. This is because the thorn fragments can be minuscule, making them hard to identify with imaging tests.

There is currently no reliable imaging scan method to diagnose plant thorn arthritis.

Doctors may take a biopsy of the synovial fluid, which is the fluid around the joint that lubricates it and allows smooth movement.

In some cases, it may take surgery to discover fragments and reach a final diagnosis of plant thorn arthritis.

Learn more about ultrasound scans here.

Initial treatment may involve antibiotics to help prevent infection from the thorn. Doctors may also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to help reduce inflammation around the joint.

To treat plant thorn arthritis, people will typically require surgery to remove the thorn fragments from the joint.

People may require a synovectomy, which is a surgical procedure that removes the damaged lining of the joint (synovium).

Plant thorn arthritis can cause inflammation of the synovium, which may damage the joint or surrounding cartilage.

A surgeon will make a small incision to perform keyhole surgery or use open surgery to remove part or all of the inflamed synovium.

Learn more about arthritis surgery here.

To help prevent plant thorn arthritis, people can try to minimize contact with plants that have thorns.

If people are gardening or taking part in activities that may increase their risk of coming into contact with thorns, they may wish to take the following precautions:

  • wearing thick, protective leather gloves
  • wearing protective clothing and boots that cover the body
  • wearing elbow and knee pads
  • wearing protective eye gear if necessary
  • using tools for digging rather than their hands
  • keeping up to date with tetanus vaccinations

People should contact a doctor if they have any of the following symptoms, particularly if they know they have had an injury from a plant thorn:

  • warmth and discoloration around a joint
  • swelling
  • pain
  • reduced range of motion

People should let a doctor know if they have had a thorn injury and the type of thorn they think it may be.

People can fully recover from plant thorn arthritis with the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Currently, the only treatment for plant thorn arthritis is surgical removal of the thorn fragments and a synovectomy to remove the inflamed joint lining.

Without treatment, plant thorn arthritis may develop into chronic arthritis.

Plant thorn arthritis is a rare type of arthritis that can be difficult for doctors to diagnose.

Plant thorn arthritis can occur if a thorn from a plant, such as a bramble or a palm tree, punctures a joint. People may get plant thorn arthritis from a thorn injury during activities such as gardening.

Plant thorn arthritis typically only affects one joint. It may affect any joint a thorn can come into contact with, such as the finger or knee joints.

Doctors may order blood tests, biopsies of joint fluid, and ultrasound scans to diagnose plant thorn arthritis. Treatment involves surgical removal of the plant thorn fragments and inflamed joint lining.

Treatment can help people fully recover and prevent plant thorn arthritis from developing into chronic arthritis.