Swollen Finger

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What is a swollen finger?

A swollen finger is a sign of fluid buildup or inflammation of the tissues or joints of the finger. Finger swelling can result from serious infections, inflammation, trauma, and other abnormal processes.

In general, swollen fingers can be caused by overall fluid retention, such as during premenstrual syndrome or pregnancy. If just one finger is swollen, the possible causes include trauma, infection, or inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis.

Because a swollen finger can be a sign of a serious infection or inflammation, you should talk with your medical professional about your symptoms. If you experience finger swelling with pain, redness, or warmth, seek prompt medical care.

What other symptoms might occur with a swollen finger or fingers?

If your finger is swollen, you may have other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, swelling due to an infection may be accompanied by fever and chills as well as redness and warmth around the affected area.

Symptoms that may occur along with a swollen finger

Finger swelling may occur with other symptoms including:

  • Bruising or other discoloration

  • Chills

  • Fatigue

  • Fever

  • Lumps or bumps along the finger

  • Numbness or tingling from nerve compression

  • Painful or tender areas

  • Pus-filled cracks or lacerations

  • Reduced range of motion or movement in a joint

  • Stiffness

  • Swollen joints

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

In some cases, a swollen finger may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care if you, or someone you are with, have finger swelling along with other serious symptoms including:

  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)

  • Inability to move the finger

  • Severe pain

  • Visual deformity

What causes a swollen finger or fingers?

A swollen finger can be due to injury or trauma, infection, inflammatory conditions, and other abnormal processes. In some cases, a swollen finger is a symptom of a serious condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting, such as a broken bone or bacterial infection.

Injury-related causes of a swollen finger or fingers

Finger swelling can be caused by the following conditions:

  • Broken bone

  • Laceration or blunt force trauma (bruising and swelling), such as a dog bite

  • Ligament or cartilage injury

  • Repetitive stress injury

Degenerative, infectious, inflammatory and autoimmune causes of a swollen finger or fingers

A swollen finger can be associated with inflammatory, infectious and autoimmune conditions including:

  • Bursitis (inflammation of a bursa sac that protects and cushions joints)

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (pressure on the nerve that travels through the wrist)

  • Cellulitis (bacterial skin infection)

  • Ganglion cyst (growth or swelling on top of joint or tendon)

  • Infection, such as Streptococcus aureus bacterial infection

  • Paronychia (infection around the nail)

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation)

  • Septic arthritis (infectious arthritis)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of a swollen finger or fingers

To help diagnose the underlying cause of a swollen finger or fingers, your licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your symptoms. Questions asked during your examination generally include:

  • How many fingers are swollen?

  • Is the whole finger(s) swollen or just a portion of the finger(s)?

  • When did the finger swelling start?

  • How long has the finger swelling lasted? Does it come and go?

  • Have you had any recent infections or injuries to the affected finger(s)?

  • Do you have pain or any other symptoms?

What are the potential complications of a swollen finger?

Complications associated with a swollen finger can be progressive and vary depending on the underlying cause. Because swelling can be due to a serious infection or other disease, failure to seek treatment can result in complications and permanent damage. It is important to visit your health care provider when you experience any kind of persistent swelling, pain, or other unusual symptoms related to your fingers or hands. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, you should follow the treatment plan you and your health care provider design specifically for you to lower your risk of potential complications including:

  • Chronic disability

  • Finger amputation

  • Finger deformity

  • Inability to perform daily tasks

  • Spread of infection to other tissues

  • Surgery to repair damage

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 3
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. “Understanding Microbes in Sickness and in Health.” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/microbes/documents/microbesbook.pdf
  2. Osteoarthritis. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.arthritis.org/conditions-treatments/disease-center/osteoarthritis/