ZocdocAnswersWhat are the symptoms of an infected fingernail?

Question

What are the symptoms of an infected fingernail?

I smashed my fingertip in a filing cabinet yesterday, and today my finger is swollen and tender. I'm especially worried about the painful area around the side and base of the fingernail. How exactly would I know if I have an infected fingernail? What is the best way to treat it if I do?

Answer

Injuries to the fingers and fingernails are unfortunately quite common but they usually heal well. The doctors who will be well qualified to discuss this issue with you in greater detail include your primary care doctor. Given the fact that you recently hurt your finger by slamming it in a filing cabinet, it is quite likely that the swelling and pain you are experiencing right now is simply from the trauma and it is unlikely to be an infection. The pain and swelling should improve over the next several days. If there is a large collection of blood beneath the fingernail, this can sometimes create excessive pressure that needs to be relieved. This can be done with the heated tip of a paper clip or it can be done by your doctor in a routine office visit. If the pain and swelling do not improve, or if there is deformity of the finger there may be a fracture of the finger bone and this should be evaluated by your doctor. As always the diagnosis and the management of your particular condition will require a physical examination by your personal physician. Setting up an office visit with your primary care doctor is highly recommended.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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