Read below about swollen index finger, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your swollen index finger from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Swollen Index Finger Symptoms

A swollen index finger – the "pointing" finger – can be a rather mysterious symptom. The index finger gets a great deal of near constant use no matter what sort of work you do, whether it's manual labor, typing, knitting or playing almost any sport.

If your whole hand is swollen, it could be due to fluid retention from pregnancy, medication, etc. If it's only your index finger, it's more likely to be from trauma, infection, or a chronic inflammatory condition.

Characteristics:

  • Swelling, with or without pain, anywhere on the index finger.
  • May appear suddenly and acutely, or gradually and for no clear reason.

Who is most often affected by swollen index finger symptoms?

  • Anyone doing long hours of physical work with the hands, whether manual labor or typing.
  • Anyone playing sports.
  • Older people are more prone to finger swelling caused by chronic illnesses.

Are swollen index finger symptoms serious?

  • A mildly swollen index finger following an injury is probably not serious and will recover with some rest and ice.
  • Any signs of infection should be examined right away by a medical provider.
  • Sudden swelling with severe pain, especially after a crush injury, is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately.

Swollen Index Finger Causes Overview

Injury:

  • An acute traumatic injury, such as falling directly onto your outstretched index finger or getting it slammed in a car door or struck by a hammer, can cause a fracture or dislocation. Either of these will result in deformity and swelling of the finger.
  • Sports injuries can cause strain, fracture, or dislocation of the finger. A common occurrence is mallet finger, caused by a ball smashing directly into the end of the finger. This can forcibly bend the first joint downward and injure the tendon so that the fingertip is left swollen and pointing downward.
  • Fistfighting, or punching an inanimate object such as a wall, can cause damage and swelling to the index finger.
  • Repetitive strain injury, or overuse, from manual labor or even typing can cause tendinitis of the finger with resultant pain and swelling.
  • Complications of injury:

    • If the skin is broken, infection can cause redness, swelling, and pain.
    • Compartment syndrome can follow a crush injury. Fascia, the sheets of tough white tissue that bind muscles and nerves together into "compartments," are surrounding the injured tissue and limiting room to swell or to drain blood. This very tight, painful swelling can cut off circulation and lead to serious complications.

Inflammatory conditions:

  • Any type of arthritis can cause swelling, pain, and deformity of the joints of the fingers.
  • A buildup of uric acid in the joints due to gout can cause the sudden appearance of swollen, thickened, painfully inflamed fingers.

Other conditions:

  • Paronychia is a painful infection and swelling of the cuticle, the skin around the fingernail. It is caused by bacteria or fungus forming an abscess under the cuticle and nail.
  • "Clubbing" of the fingertips is caused by overgrowth of tissue at the ends of the fingers and beneath the nail bed. It causes the nail bed to appear higher than the finger behind it, while the ends of the fingers bulge outward. Clubbing is a symptom of circulatory, respiratory, thyroid, or other illness and warrants medical evaluation.
  • Sensitivity to cold.

    • You may find your fingers turning cold and very pale when you are exposed to cold air or stress (Raynaud's Disease).
    • Exposure to cold can also cause an itchy, painful, cold, pale swelling on the back or side of the finger, which may ulcerate.

Rare and unusual cause types:

  • Tumors of the fingers are rare, but can happen. They appear most often as a swelling beneath and/or just beside the fingernails.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Swollen Index Finger

Updated on Aug. 29, 2018

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced swollen index finger. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Non - Serious Finger Injury

    Finger injuries are very common & rarely need medical treatment.

    The pain & swelling will begin to resolve within a few days.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    recent finger injury, finger pain from an injury, swollen finger, severe finger pain
    Symptoms that always occur with non-serious finger injury:
    recent finger injury
    Symptoms that never occur with non-serious finger injury:
    bent or crooked finger
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Dislocated Finger

    Dislocations of the finger at the base of the finger are relatively rare. However, when they do happen, they can damage the blood supply to the finger and its nerves.

    Good prognosis with rehab

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    bent or crooked finger, finger dislocation at the middle knuckle, swollen finger, finger pain from an injury
    Symptoms that always occur with dislocated finger:
    bent or crooked finger, finger dislocation at the middle knuckle
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  3. 3.Nail Infection (Paronychia)

    Paronychia is an infection of the nail folds, typically caused by Staph. Aureus. Or a fungus.

    Great prognosis. Recovery in the next two weeks

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous finger pain, fingernail pain, fingernail swelling
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  4. 4.Cellulitis

    Facial cellulitis is a skin infection that typically comes from other parts of the face like the mouth or the sinuses and needs antibiotic treatment. Symptoms can be pain, redness, warmth and swelling of the affected area.

    Dependent on severity of infection

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, chills, facial redness, swollen face, face pain
    Symptoms that always occur with cellulitis:
    facial redness, area of skin redness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Swollen Index Finger Checker

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  5. 5.Dupuytren Disease

    Dupuytren Disease, also known as Dupuytren's contracture, is a condition that gradually causes connective tissue (fascia) under the skin of the palm to thicken and become scar-like. Although Dupuytren's isn't painful, it does restrict movement. The thickened tissue forces several fingers - usually the ring and pinky fingers - to curl in toward the palm.

    This condition is chronic, and may get worse over time, eventually requiring treatment.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    finger joint stiffness, hand bump, thickened skin on the finger, swollen hands, hand injury
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Psoriatic Arthritis

    Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. Some people who have psoriasis also get a form of arthritis (inflammation and swelling of joints) called psoriatic arthritis.

    This type of arthritis can be managed with treatment, and permanent damage can be prevented. However, the underlying cause (psoriasis) is currently incurable.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    shoulder pain, lower back pain, joint pain, upper back pain, hip pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that it is caused by the immune system incorrectly attacking the joints when it shouldn't.

    RA is a chronic disease which requires lifelong control.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, joint pain, muscle aches, daytime sleepiness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Boxer's Fracture

    Boxer's fracture is a term for a fracture of one of fingers and generally occurs after a closed fist makes contact with a hard object.

    With proper medical attention, a Boxer's Fracture heals within 4 months.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    finger pain, swollen finger, finger bruise, punched a hard object
    Symptoms that always occur with boxer's fracture:
    finger pain, swollen finger, punched a hard object
    Urgency:
    In-person visit

Swollen Index Finger Treatments and Relief

Seek immediate swollen index finger treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if you have:

  • Severe, acute pain and swelling in any part of the finger.
  • Obvious fracture.

Schedule an appointment if:

  • There is a suspected fracture.
  • The finger becomes numb, pale, and cold.
  • The finger appears deformed or you cannot straighten it.
  • There is pain, redness, drainage of pus, fever, numbness, or tingling along with the swelling.
  • You have a child with any of the above symptoms. That's because the growth plates – the areas of the bone which create length – can be damaged by an untreated injury and become deformed after that.
  • You notice clubbing of the fingertip, especially if you also have heart or lung disease.

Swollen index finger remedies that you can try at home:

  • For swelling, try ice packs or cold packs.
  • Use over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or other NSAIDs for pain and inflammation.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Swollen Index Finger

  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?
  • Q.Do you have these contractures that limit the movement of your fingers? (See picture)
  • Q.Do any of your body parts (e.g., toes, hands, ears) feel cold?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our swollen index finger symptom checker to find out more.

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Swollen Index Finger Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced swollen index finger have also experienced:

    • 46% Finger Pain
    • 2% Joint Pain
    • 2% Joint Stiffness
  • People who have experienced swollen index finger had symptoms persist for:

    • 37% Less Than a Day
    • 35% Less Than a Week
    • 13% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced swollen index finger were most often matched with:

    • 62% Dislocated Finger
    • 25% Nail Infection (Paronychia)
    • 12% Non - Serious Finger Injury
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

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