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What Are the Symptoms of a Finger Infection?

By Patti Kate
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Symptoms of a finger infection may vary, depending upon the location and severity. For instance, symptoms of a fingernail infection may be discoloration and cracked or hardened nails. An infection from a cut to the skin may produce a discharge of pus and pain. Swelling and red streaks on the surface of the skin may be other common symptoms of an infection in the finger. It is not uncommon to experience low-grade to moderate fever when a finger becomes infected.

When a fingernail becomes infected, the surrounding skin will usually be inflamed. Redness and swelling generally occur with infected fingernails. An infected fingernail may produce drainage, although some mild cases will show discoloration to the nail and slight discomfort. Drainage from underneath the nail may include yellowish-green pus. Soreness and pain will generally occur when the area is touched.

Finger infections ranging from mild to moderate may also produce itching. The itching generally occurs in the early stages of infection, followed by more noticeable symptoms. An infection due to a lesion or cut may begin with redness to the skin of an injury that does not appear to heal. A throbbing or burning pain may be felt in the area, and pus may emerge as pressure is exerted.

In severe cases of a finger infection, range of motion may be affected. The inability to move the finger freely may be one symptom of infection. The stiff joint of an infected finger may also be swollen and red. Body temperature may be elevated and increase if the infection is not treated in a timely manner.

Common causes of a finger infection are bacteria that may enter the body through an open cut, or second- or third-degree burns to a finger. Viral infections of the fingertip are referred to in medical terms as herpetic whitlow. Cellulitis may also cause infection of the finger, although the underlying tissue is generally not affected.

Treatment of a finger infection may include a procedure known as incision and drain. This is done by a physician who drains the infected fluid from the area. A topical antibacterial ointment may be applied to the finger or around the fingernail. In some cases, the patient will be instructed to soak the finger in warm water several times a day. The patient may also be given a course of oral antibiotics to treat the finger infection.

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Discussion Comments
By Fa5t3r — On Oct 08, 2013

@pastanaga - Well, in some ways we will still be better off than people were before modern medicine, even if the bacteria do get more resistant.

For one thing, we know that we need to wash our hands with soap, which probably cuts down on the risk of infection in a small cut by a large amount.

And we also have much better nutrition, for the most part, which means our bodies simply don't develop infections as often as people who didn't get enough vitamins and minerals and even just calories in general.

Most of the time, these days, people who get an infection in a small cut are either unlucky, or there is something else wrong.

By pastanaga — On Oct 07, 2013

@KoiwiGal - A finger infection can be particularly serious, because if the bacteria get underneath your fingernail you can't really reach them effectively with antibiotic creams. So, your only option with an infected finger nail might be using pills, but they don't always work. Bacteria have become more and more resistant to them.

I think that our kids and grandkids are going to find a splinter in the finger to be a lot more dangerous than we do.

By KoiwiGal — On Oct 06, 2013

It seems weird to me that people used to die from a small scratch like a splinter or something in their finger, but it's true. I had a bacterial infection in my finger recently and I can believe it. I was on a camping trip and we hadn't been smart enough to bring any antiseptic cream or anything like that, so it kept getting worse and worse.

When we got back to civilization and I went to the doctor she said that I was lucky that I didn't delay any longer, because I might have lost the finger!

But with a few weeks of antibiotics I was back almost completely to normal, with only a little bit of a scar to remember it by.

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