First of all, I would like to warn all sensitive readers not to scroll down, as it includes disturbing images of a medical condition known as “Ainhum”.


I first learned about Ainhum yesterday. Suley, one of the Eden workers, was having trouble walking because of long term pain in his right small toe. When he finally visited a clinic, they told him he had to amputate, but did not tell him what the problem was. A second medical opinion however confirmed it as a classical case of Ainhum. For those who don’t know what Ainhum is, it’s a rare disease where one or two of the small toes of a person are automatically amputated by the body itself. “Where There is No Doctor” (THE medical manual to have at hand when in Africa) decribes the disease as following:

“An abnormality of the blood supply to the small toes may lead to a gruadually developing deformity. The toe becomes encircled by a band of scar tissue. Walking becomes very painful. After many months of pain the toe drops off. Both small toes may be affected.”

David Werner, Where There is no Doctor, 2007 (p 222)


Little is known about the causes of Ainhum, but it is quite common in Africa. If caught early, there might be other options but once the body has begun the process of autoamputating, there is no turning back and the quicker the toe is removed, the better for the patient. In Suley’s case, the affected toe was successfully amputated at the general hospital this morning, and he is now home recovering. Although no one wants to have a limb removed, I know he was relieved to have the painful toe removed, because the pain was excrusiating. Although Ainhum often attacks both little toes, it seems likely that only Suley’s left little toe has been affected, and we hope he will soon be able to walk without pain again.