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Finger Infection (cont.)

What Are Risk Factors for Finger Infections?

There are several risk factors for developing finger infections, including the following:

  • Puncture wounds
  • Deep cuts
  • Any open wound
  • Penetrating trauma
  • Picking hangnails
  • Nail biting
  • Aggressive manicuring or cuticle trimming

Some individuals may be at higher risk for finger infections, including

  • people with diabetes;
  • people with compromised immune systems;
  • people in certain occupations, such as dentists, hygienists, physicians, and nurses; and
  • people in occupations involving extended exposure of the hands to water (such as dishwashers).

What Are Symptoms and Signs of a Finger Infection?

Each of the main finger infections has specific signs and symptoms that make identification unique and may cause confusion if not properly evaluated.

  • Paronychia: Symptoms and signs of paronychia include redness and swelling of the area next to the fingernail. A visible collection of pus may be seen under the skin and nail. This fluid may be leaking out of the wound. The area will be tender and painful to the touch. The drainage from the area is usually a cloudy white-yellow color.
  • Felon: Symptoms of a felon include a swollen and painful fingertip. The swelling usually develops over several days and is located in the pad area of the fingertip. The area will have a throbbing pain and be painful to the touch. The area is usually red, and a visible collection of pus may be seen under the skin. The swollen area may have a portion that feels soft as if it contains fluid. As the swelling continues, the area may become tense or hard to the touch.
  • Herpetic whitlow: Symptoms of herpetic whitlow include redness and tenderness of the fingertip area. A burning or itching sensation may be present in the area. There may be mild swelling but not as extensive as in the felon. There may be a single or many open wounds in the area affected. These open wounds often occur in clusters after the formation of a small blister-like lesion. The fluid in these lesions is usually clear in appearance but may be slightly cloudy. The affected individual may also have a low-grade fever and have swollen and tender lymph nodes in the area.
  • Cellulitis: Symptoms of cellulitis include skin area redness and warmth to the touch. The area may be slightly swollen and tender. This is usually a superficial infection so the deep structures should not be involved. The motion of the fingers and hand should not be difficult or painful. If painful or difficult, this may indicate a deep space infection of some type.
  • Infectious flexor tenosynovitis: Four major signs often are found with infectious flexor tenosynovitis.
    • First is tenderness over the flexor or palm side of the finger. This pain is found over the tendons in the finger.
    • Second is uniform swelling of the finger.
    • Third is pain on extending or straightening of the finger.
    • Fourth, the finger will be held in a slightly flexed or partially bent position.

These signs are called Kanavel cardinal signs. All four signs may not be present at first or all at once.

  • Deep space infections: The deep space infection that arises in the web space of the fingers is also called a collar button abscess. Symptoms and signs of deep space infections include pain and swelling in the space between the fingers. The area may also be red and warm to the touch. As the abscess becomes larger, the fingers will be slightly spread apart by the increasing pressure. The central area may have a soft spot that represents a collection of pus under the skin.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/19/2016

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Paronychia »

Paronychia is a soft tissue infection around a fingernail.

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