An infected finger can happen to anyone at any time. Something as seemingly simple as a cut or nip from your pet cat is subjected to infection, especially if not treated quickly or properly. Once infection sets in, the potential for serious problems increases exponentially. To avoid the loss of nerve tissue and/or bone, it is crucial to seek treatment from an experienced physician.

At EmergeOrtho, our highly-skilled physicians understand that even a small injury can lead to a serious infection. For this exact reason, our fellowship-trained EmergeOrtho Hand and Wrist Team provides innovative and superior quality service for patients across North Carolina. Our priority centers on helping all of our patients to Emerge Stronger. Healthier. Better.

How Can I Tell if I Have an Infected Finger?

Infections in the finger occur as the result of bacteria, viruses, and parasites entering the body through a wound. No matter the size —a small cut or large gash—any break in the skin is an invitation for infection. Once the infection enters the body it destroys healthy tissues and begins to spread through your blood. It can even creep into your joints (septic arthritis) and bones (osteomyelitis).

Left untreated severe medical problems can not only lead to loss of nerve tissue and bone but may also develop into a life-threatening situation. Symptoms of finger infections include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Pus drainage
  • Fever (in some cases)

Causes and Types of Finger and Hand Infections

Perhaps not widely known, there are multiple common causes of finger and hand infections, which include (but are not limited to):

  • Tendon sheath infection
    When a puncture wound in the finger produces an infection in the flexor tendons around the wrist, it can affect your ability to bend your fingers. As a result, the fingers and hand are stiff, swollen, red and tender. This infection often requires treatment with IV antibiotics.
  • Deep puncture wounds
    Cat, dog, and other animal bites serve as recognizable and frequent examples of deep puncture wounds. Cat-bite wounds, in particular, are cause for concern due to a cat’s fangs being able to penetrate deeply into the joints and tissue. The result: A perfect breeding ground for infection. If you have been bitten by an animal—regardless of whether it is feral or domesticated, you should be checked for rabies immediately.
  • Cellulitis
    This bacterial infection results from a break or crack in the skin around the fingernails. It can quickly spread to the bloodstream and must be addressed quickly with antibiotic treatment to avoid serious repercussions. Some patients may need hospitalization to fight the disease.
  • Chronic paronychia
    Paronychia is a term used when cellulitis has progressed beyond 10 to 12 weeks. Chronic paronychia describes the slow onset of the infection and acute paronychia is the term for the sudden onset of infection. Topical steroids may be used to treat the infection.
  • Deep space infection
    When one of the compartments within the hand is infected and an abscess forms, the condition is referred to as a deep space infection. These infections often manifest in the space between the fingers or the muscle at the base of the thumb and palm.
  • MRSA
    Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus or MRSA is a bacterial infection contracted primarily from large, community places like hospitals, gyms, dorms, and even daycares. MRSA must be treated as soon as possible to prevent it from transforming into a more serious infection.
  • Fungal infections
    More common in those whose hands are frequently wet — like dishwashers, fungal bacterial infections affect the area around the fingernail. Signs include red, swollen, and tender cuticles. While this infection can be treated with medication, surgery may be needed to completely drain the pus.
  • Septic arthritis
    This type of infection occurs when a wound near a joint becomes infected, usually, from a penetrating injury such as a bite, small needle, or injection. Urgent surgical attention is needed because the joint cartilage can be destroyed in just a few days. If not caught early, septic arthritis may require weeks of antibiotic treatment and several surgeries.
  • Herpes virus
    Although most people may not associate the herpes virus with the hands, it can cause an infection resulting in small, painful, and blood-tinged blisters. This condition usually resolves in a few weeks with basic treatment.
  • Gardening or activities that involve sharp objects
    A mishap with a gardening tool or other sharp object can cause the pulp of the fingertip to become infected, forming something called a felon. This causes painful throbbing and may need to be drained. In more serious cases, soft tissue and bone may be destroyed.

Infected Finger Treatment

While some infections can be managed with antibiotics or topical steroids, others may require surgery or even extensive hospitalization. If you believe you may have an infection of the skin in or around your finger, consult your doctor as soon as possible.

At EmergeOrtho, all of our physicians have broad, extensive clinical experience and training. Our renowned expertise throughout North Carolina for providing sophisticated, patient-centered care makes our practice the clear choice for local orthopedic care.

To receive treatment for an infected finger, request a visit now.

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