Obvious causes of sore fingers

Infected sore fingers.
Our fingertips commonly get infected because they're into everything and get injured.

The pad or pulp of a finger is divided into many small fatty compartments by strands of fibrous tissue which run from the skin to the bone. Pressure builds up with slight swelling, and the tissues can die.

Pulp space infections are therefor very painful and can get pussy easily. The redness and swelling are on the front, opposite the nail.
Keep it elevated and get some antibiotics quickly. If not treated quickly, it may need to be cut open surgically.

Plant thorn arthritis is caused by spikes from plants puncturing the skin and a bit breaking off in a joint. The arthritis is mostly from chemical irritation, sometimes from introduced infection. Blackthorn shrubs, bougainvillea, cacti, firethorn, mesquite trees, palm trees, plum trees, roses and yucca can be responsible.

Any new single hot swollen joint needs to be aspirated, in case it's an infected septic joint. This can lead to septicemia or permanent joint damage within days.

Paronychia (inflammation of the skin around the edge of the nail,) can also be quite painful.
I once had bronchitis for weeks and didn't want to take antibiotics, so just put up with it.
This was still in full swing when paronychia arrived to keep it company, and I, the whimp that I am, started antibiotics immediately.
Next thing I got thrush from the antibiotic!

This can also get pussy quickly, and the first thing to do is probe between the red, swollen and painful flesh, and the edge of the fingernail.
If one can stand the pain, the back end of a sewing needle can be sterilized with methylated spirits and pushed in to release any pus.

Long standing paronychia doesn't respond well to antibiotics. It is usually because of having hands wet a lot, washing things. The skin separates from the fingernail, producing a cleft which harbours germs and fungi.
It is essential to keep the finger dry, to fix this.

Chillblains are dealt with on the foot pain page of this site.

Osteoarthritis is the condition where bumps develop on the back of the fingers alongside the joints, typically the end (distal interphalangeal) joints, where they are called Heberden's nodes.
X-rays show that the bones are closer together, as the gristle is thinned.

A wonderful old lady¹ at my first practice, had devised a simple exercise to keep her osteoarthritic fingers supple. She had a thin piece of wood with a rounded smooth edge, which she repeatedly slid in and out between her fingers (up and down in the picture,) alternating the finger positions like the warp threads in weaving.

exercise for  finger osteoarthritis

Professor Cem Gabay has conducted a trial² of a highly purified chondroitin 4&6 sulfate preparation, in which people with painful osteoarthritic hands (fingers, and 40% with thumb involved as well) obtained more relief than from dummy treatment.

Flynn, Irvin and Krause from the University of Missouri-Columbia, found that vitamin B12 and folic acid helped osteoarthritic hands³.

This is one place where drug (NSAID) treatment is just as effective and safer, applied locally rather than swallowed.

Compression gloves may reduce pain quite a lot.

Other osteoarthritis treatments can be found on the knee osteoarthritis treatment page of this site.

Raynauds syndrome where fingers go painfully white then red then purple, can be caused by lots of illnesses. Whatever the label you've been given, have a look at the Road Back foundation website forumson this.

Evening primrose oil⁴ is worth trying.

Raynaud's phenomenon can also be treated with drugs orally (ACE inhibitors, nifedipine, prazosin and methyldopa,) or on the skin (glyceryl trinitrate.)

Both hands are likely to be affected equally. If only one hand or even just one finger is affected, the cause will usually be a joint subluxation at your cervico-thoracic junction where your neck meets your back between the shoulders.

The explanation for this phenomenon is given on the hand pain page of this site, in relation to carpal tunnel syndrome. Pictures of this are on the upper back pain page.

And the not so obvious

Hypertrophic pulmonary osteoarthropathy is a condition with bulbous enlargement of the fingertips and thickening of the bones on X-ray, from lung disease.

It can cause severe burning and deep-seated pain which is aggravated with hanging them down and relieved with elevation.

This can precede the appearance of constitutional symptoms (eg, fatigue, fever, weight loss) or respiratory symptoms (eg, cough, chest pain, breathlessness) by several months.

From sore fingers page to home page

From sore fingers back to hand pain page

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1. Vale Mrs. Ellen Fawkner. She was very well known in Dimboola as she opened her house at regatta time and had wall to wall rowers sleeping on the floor. I remember well her returning home after a spell the former Queen Victoria hospital in Melbourne. She had recovered well from a bout of pneumonia, despite having taken none of the ampicillin capsules prescribed for her. She brought them home with her and gave them to me in the little box where she had hidden them during her hospitalization. They weren't wasted. Dear oh dear!

2. Cem Gabay et al Symptomatic effect of chondroitin sulfate 4&6 in hand osteoarthritis the finger osteoarthritis chondroitin treatment study (FACTS) Arthritis & Rheumatism

3. The effect of folate and cobalamin on osteoarthritic hands. Flynn et al J Am Coll Nutr. 1994 Aug;13(4):351-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7963140

4. Evening primrose oil (Efamol) in the treatment of Raynaud's phenomenon: a double blind study.


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