Finger pain can be challenging. We use our hands almost continuously — to brush our teeth, drive, type, pick up objects, turn the pages of a book, eat, and so much more. Experiencing pain in the fingers or hands can disrupt our ability to perform daily tasks. From the bones to muscles and joints, various conditions can adversely affect the fingers.
Arthritis is one of the most common causes of finger pain and refers to the inflammation or degeneration of one or more joints in the body. The condition commonly affects finger joints, causing them to become inflamed and swollen. Some people develop cysts on their fingers, or feel a grating or grinding in the joints. Medical treatments may not cure arthritis but can alleviate the symptoms.
Ganglion cysts typically affect the wrist and hand. They do not often cause pain, but they can. The cysts fill with fluid that puts pressure on nearby nerves and triggers pain in the fingers, hand, or wrist. Splinting and resting the area can cause the cyst to diminish. Up to half of ganglion cysts disappear on their own. However, it's best to have a health care provider examine these growths — the physician may choose to drain the cyst or remove it completely.
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The carpal tunnel in the base of the hand can become narrowed to the point that it squeezes the median nerve, causing irritation, swelling, and inflammation. The result is pain in the fingers and hands. People with this condition may experience burning or numbness. Carpal tunnel often starts off mild but can gradually worsen until it becomes difficult to pick up objects or create a firm grasp. In cases of mild carpal tunnel syndrome, rest and ice packs may reduce symptoms. Some cases require surgery.
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A complex and extreme form of arthritis, gout typically affects the joints, causing sudden and intense pain and swelling. Some people report that a gout attack feels as if the hand is on fire. Gout flares can also occur in the toes, knees, and feet. The intense pain from a gout attack can interrupt sleep or prevent daily tasks. For severe gout attacks, doctors may prescribe medications, and many people need to adopt diet and lifestyle changes.
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Someone may receive a diagnosis of stenosing tenosynovitis or trigger finger when their finger or thumb becomes stuck in a bent position. Many people feel extreme pain as the tendon sheaths in the fingers swell; swelling causes the tendons to become stuck. Stenosing tenosynovitis is most common in the ring finger and thumb. The pain often occurs in the morning and is accompanied by stiffness. Physicians may recommend steroid injections or surgery.
De Quervain's tenosynovitis affects the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist, causing intense pain. The condition occurs when the tendons at the base of the thumb become inflamed to the point where they put pressure on the nerves. Swelling and pain can make it difficult to grasp objects. The pain prevents people from using the affected hand. Splinting, ice packs, steroid injections, and pain relievers can help reduce the symptoms; however, some people require surgery.
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When the peripheral nerves in the hands are damaged, weakness, numbness, and pain can develop, all symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Some people with this condition experience throbbing pain. Others feel burning or extreme sensitivity. Infections, conditions like diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, excessive alcohol use, autoimmune conditions, exposure to toxins or heavy metals, and injuries to the fingers or hands can cause peripheral neuropathy. Doctors may suggest prescriptions or over-the-counter medications to alleviate symptoms.
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Raynaud's disease, also called Raynaud's phenomenon, causes the hands and fingers to become numb and abnormally cold during periods of stress or exposure to cold. While it is normal for the hand to become numb and cold in low temperatures, people with Raynaud's have a more extreme reaction. In severe cases, people with the condition can develop sores or gangrene. To prevent tissue damage, doctors may encourage people to wear gloves and to avoid exposing their hands to cold temperatures. Sometimes, surgery can improve extreme cases of Raynaud's disease.
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Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that affects much of the body. Common symptoms include rashes, muscle pain, fevers, and fatigue, but wrist and finger pain can also occur. Some people with lupus experience pale or purple fingers or toes. Individuals with lupus may also experience joint pain and swelling and are at higher risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, another cause of hand pain. Although there is no cure for lupus, treatment can help. People combatting lupus-related finger pain may benefit from over-the-counter pain medications or cool or warm compresses. Avoiding activities and resting the area during a flare-up can also help.
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Injury to the hands and fingers can cause swelling, inflammation, and intense pain. There are twenty-seven bones in the hand. When a fracture occurs to any of them, it is essential that a doctor inspect and set the injury, as improper healing can lead to chronic pain. A serious hand injury may require surgery or physical or occupational therapy, but the most common treatment is splinting.
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