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
Lumps or bumps along the finger
Painful or tender areas
Pus-filled cracks or lacerations
Reduced range of motion or movement in a joint
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
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:
Laceration or blunt force trauma (bruising and swelling), such as a dog bite
Ligament or cartilage 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)
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?
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:
Inability to perform daily tasks
Spread of infection to other tissues
Surgery to repair damage