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Learn about your swollen index finger, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your swollen index finger from our A.I. Symptom Checker. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Your Swollen Index Finger May Also be Known as:
Index finger feels puffy
Index finger feels swollen
Index finger is puffy
Index finger is swollen
Index finger puffiness
Index finger swelling
Puffy index finger

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.

Top 10 Swollen Index Finger Causes

  1. 1.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.

    Apply ice to relieve pain and swelling. If there is an open wound, gently clean with soap and water. Proceed to your nearest urgent care clinic.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    finger pain, swollen finger, finger bruise
    Symptoms that always occur with boxer's fracture:
    finger pain, swollen finger
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  2. 2.Cellulitis

    Cellulitis is an infection of the skin and tissues underneath it. It is most commonly caused by Group A strep and typically enters the body through a break in the skin.

    You should go to your primary care doctor tomorrow. There, he or she will inspect your skin and determine if antibiotics are necessary.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, hand redness, hand pain, painful hand swelling, hand injury
    Symptoms that always occur with cellulitis:
    hand redness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Nail Infection (Paronychia)

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

    You should go see a retail or urgent care clinic in the next day or so. You can treat this with an antibiotic such as clindamycin or bactrim.

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

    You do not need treatment. In many cases, the condition remains mild and causes little interference with the use of the hand. Consider seeing a primary care physician (PCP) if you are not able to place your hand flat on a table top or if your hand function is significantly affected.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    finger joint stiffness, thickened skin on the finger, hand bump, swollen hands, thickened skin on the palm of the hand
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.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.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate care with a specialist. RA is a complex disease, which can require prescription medication to help slow down the damage to your joints, as well as pain killers such as ibuprofen (Advil), or naproxen (Anaprox and Naprosyn). Exercise, especially swimming, can also help with pain and stiffness.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, muscle aches, joint pain, daytime sleepiness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  6. 6.Ulcerative Colitis

    Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is a condition that causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bloody bowel movements. These symptoms occur because the large intestine (colon) has become inflamed and acquired sores, known as “ulcers.”

    You should visit your primary care physician to discuss your symptoms. If the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment is likely to include medication as well as dietary and nutritional modifications.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fever, general abdominal pain, back pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Synovial Chondromatosis

    Synovial chondromatosis is a disease affecting the synovium, which is a thin flexible membrane around a joint. It can often be confused with tendinitis and/or arthritis.

    You should visit your primary care physician to discuss the possibility of removing the synovium.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    joint swelling, pain in one knee, swollen knee, swollen ankle, spontaneous knee pain
    Symptoms that always occur with synovial chondromatosis:
    joint swelling
    Symptoms that never occur with synovial chondromatosis:
    fever, night sweats, unintentional weight loss, warm red ankle swelling, warm red knee swelling, warm and red elbow swelling
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Hepatitis b

    Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) that is carried in human blood. It spreads through contact with infected blood, such as through infected needles, toothbrushes, or razors, through unprotected sex with an infected person, and from mother to baby during childbirth.

    You should visit your primary care physician. Hepatitis B infection, if confirmed by a blood test, is treated with prescription antiviral medication.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, headache
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.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.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    finger pain from an injury, recent finger injury, swollen finger, finger joint stiffness, finger bruise
    Symptoms that always occur with jammed finger:
    recent finger injury, finger pain from an injury
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.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.

    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

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.Is your hand swelling getting better or worse?
  • Q.How long has your hand been swollen?
  • Q.How swollen is your hand?
  • Q.Is your hand swelling constant or come-and-go?

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

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Swollen Index Finger Symptom Checker Statistics

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

    • 9% Joint Stiffness
    • 9% Swollen Finger
    • 9% Finger Pain
  • People who have experienced swollen index finger had symptoms persist for:

    • 36% Less Than a Week
    • 31% Less Than a Day
    • 17% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced swollen index finger were most often matched with:

    • 30% Boxer's Fracture
    • 15% Cellulitis
    • 15% Nail Infection (Paronychia)

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