Definition

A felon is an infection in the fleshy part of the fingertip. It can cause a buildup of pus. This can cause pressure and stop blood flow to nearby tissue.

Causes

Felon is caused by bacteria that has passed through a break in the skin. Common breaks on fingertip include a splinter, a paper cut, or needle puncture.

Risk Factors

Trauma to the fingertip is the main risk factor. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Activities that may cause a break in the skin, such as nail biting and dishwashing
  • Health problems, medicines, or social activities that cause a weakened immune system

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Fingertip swelling
  • Throbbing pain
  • Redness and warmth
  • A buildup of fluid on the fingertip

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked about any recent injury to the finger. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

A sample of pus may be taken from the area. It will show the exact type of bacteria causing the infection. This can help guide treatment of severe infections.

Treatment

Early treatment can stop the infection from spreading and causing damage. This can be done with:

  • Supportive care, such as warm saltwater soaks
  • Antibiotics to treat infection
  • Opening the skin over the area to help blood flow and allow pus to drain out

Surgery may be needed for people with severe infection who are not helped by other methods.

Infection Can Spread to the Bone

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Prevention

The risk of this problem can be lowered by:

  • Wearing gloves when working with things that could break the skin
  • Not biting one's nails
RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

Felon. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/felon. Accessed September 11, 2020.

Felon. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/hand-disorders/felon. Accessed September 11, 2020.

Koshy JC, Bell B. Hand Infections. J Hand Surg Am. 2019 Jan;44(1):46-54.

Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Shawna Grubb, RN  Last Updated: 9/11/2020