Skip to main contentSkip to accessibility services
Read about

Fingernail Pain Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Tooltip Icon.
Last updated June 11, 2022

Fingernail pain quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your pain.

Understand your fingernail pain symptoms, including 2 causes & common questions.

Fingernail pain quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your pain.

Take fingernail pain quiz

2 causes of fingernail pain

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Nail infection (paronychia)

Paronychia is an infection of the skin of the fingers or toes, at the place where the skin folds down to meet the nail.

Acute, or sudden onset, paronychia is caused by the staphylococcus bacteria. The organism can gain entry if the nail is cracked, broken, bitten, or trimmed too closely.

Chronic, or ongoing, paronychia is caused by a fungus. Anyone whose work requires their hands to be wet much of the time is susceptible.

People with diabetes or a weakened immune system are more susceptible to nail infections.

Symptoms include sore, reddened, swollen skin around the nail, sometimes with pus collecting under the skin.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and sometimes skin culture to identify the organism involved.

Treatment for acute paronychia involves having a medical provider clean the wounded nail and drain any infection, and sometimes provide a course of antibiotics.

Treatment for the chronic form involves keeping the skin dry and using an antifungal medication on the affected nail.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: spontaneous finger pain, fingernail pain, fingernail swelling

Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit

Raynaud phenomenon

Raynaud phenomenon, also called Secondary Raynaud syndrome, is a condition that causes small arteries in the skin to abnormally constrict on exposure to cold water or air. This limits blood flow to the hands, fingers, feet, toes, nose, and ears.

Secondary Raynaud syndrome is rare and is caused by another underlying medical condition, often a connective tissue disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, or lupus.

Women are more likely than men to be affected, especially if living in cold climates. Family history and smoking are also risk factors.

Symptoms include the hands and feet becoming numb and cold. The skin color changes from pale to bluish, and then to red as the skin warms again.

If not treated, patients may get ulcerated sores or deformities of the fingers and toes, or even gangrene, due to the lack of circulation.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and blood tests.

Treatment includes medications to help increase circulation; treatment of any underlying conditions; and lifestyle changes to gain better protection for the extremities in cold conditions.

Fingernail pain quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your pain.

Take fingernail pain quiz

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a complication of psoriasis, which causes the skin to become thickened, red, and scaly. Arthritis may appear before or after the psoriasis appears.

Both conditions are autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself, and are thought to be caused by genetic and environmental factors.

Most susceptible are people from 30 to 50 years of age with a family history of the disease and who already have psoriasis.

Symptoms include the joints on one or both sides of the body becoming painful, swollen, and hot; swelling and deformity of the fingers and toes; pitted, flaking fingernails; foot pain in the heels and soles; and joint pain in the low back pain.

It is important to seek treatment, as psoriatic arthritis can permanently damage the joints, eyes, and heart.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, x-rays, and MRI. Blood tests and joint fluid tests can confirm psoriatic arthritis.

Treatment includes over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; anti-rheumatic medication; immunosuppressants; and steroid injections for the joints. Surgery to replace damaged joints may also be tried.

Normal thumb pain

Thumb pain can be caused by a host of things, but is often idiopathic (without cause).

Your thumb pain looks like it is variation of normal, which doesn't require any treatment, for now. You can take over the counter pain medication to relieve the pain. If anything changes, please check in again.

Non-serious finger injury

Finger injuries are very common & rarely need medical treatment.

You can treat this at home with ice and rest. An X-ray would be necessary to rule out a fracture if you had swelling and difficulty moving the finger.

Jammed finger

Jammed fingers are common in sports but may occur during daily activity.

You should visit a physician or urgent care center in the next day. Generally, surgery is not required and splinting is sufficient.

Iron deficiency anemia

Iron deficiency anemia means that the body does not have enough iron to form hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.

The condition is caused by:

  • Acute blood loss through injury, surgery, or childbirth.
  • Chronic blood loss through an ulcer, overuse of aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs,) or heavy menstrual periods.
  • Inability to absorb dietary iron due to intestinal surgery or disease, or interference from certain medications.
  • A diet low in iron-supplying foods.

Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, lack of endurance, and chest pain with rapid and irregular heartbeat.

If not treated, iron deficiency anemia can lead to heart disease because the heart has to pump extra blood to get enough oxygen to the tissues. Developmental problems in children can also occur.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and blood tests.

Treatment includes a diet higher in iron-rich foods, such as red meat and dark green leafy vegetables, along with iron supplements. Severe cases may require hospitalization for blood transfusion and/or intravenous iron therapy.

Fingernail pain quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your pain.

Take fingernail pain quiz

Chronic nail infection (paronychia)

Chronic fingernail infection (Paronychia) is caused by repeated damage to the cuticle (the thin layer of skin that covers the base of the nail). The cuticle protects the nail from infection, and when it's damaged again-and-again, it can predispose someone to infections of the nail (paronychia).

You can treat this at home with a number of changes - 1) moisturizing with lotion, 2) protecting your hands from water by using light cotton gloves under heavier-duty vinyl gloves, 3) avoiding any nail polish/remover/hardener/conditioner, 4) using mild soaps to wash your hands and drying them completely and carefully, 5) using a topical steroid to promote healing

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: spontaneous finger pain, fingernail pain, cuticle loss, fingernail swelling

Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit

Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the deep layers of the skin. It can appear anywhere on the body but is most common on the feet, lower legs, and face.

The condition can develop if Staphylococcus bacteria enter broken skin through a cut, scrape, or existing skin infection such as impetigo or eczema.

Most susceptible are those with a weakened immune system, as from corticosteroids or chemotherapy, or with impaired circulation from diabetes or any vascular disease.

Symptoms arise somewhat gradually and include sore, reddened skin.

If not treated, the infection can become severe, form pus, and destroy the tissue around it. In rare cases, the infection can cause blood poisoning or meningitis.

Symptom of severe pain, fever, cold sweats, and fast heartbeat should be seen immediately by a medical provider.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

Treatment consists of antibiotics, keeping the wound clean, and sometimes surgery to remove any dead tissue. Cellulitis often recurs, so it is important to treat any underlying conditions and improve the immune system with rest and good nutrition.

Questions your doctor may ask about fingernail pain

  • Did you injure your finger?
  • Do any of your body parts (e.g., toes, hands, ears) feel cold?
  • Did you get a manicure and/or pedicure in the past few days?
  • Did you recently injure your hand or fingers?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

Fingernail pain symptom checker statistics

People who have experienced fingernail pain have also experienced:

  • 15% Fingernail Changes
  • 10% Finger Pain
  • 10% Cut On The Finger

People who have experienced fingernail pain were most often matched with:

  • 50% Nail Infection (Paronychia)
  • 50% Chronic Nail Infection (Paronychia)

People who have experienced fingernail pain had symptoms persist for:

  • 28% Over a month
  • 27% Less than a week
  • 22% Less than a day

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant.

Share your story

Was this article helpful?

14 people found this helpful
Tooltip Icon.