Pinky finger knuckle swollen: Non-arthritis causes of swollen, painful finger joints

Non-arthritis causes of swollen, painful finger joints

Arthritis is a common cause of finger swelling, but other conditions — such as injuries, preeclampsia, and trauma — can also cause swelling, inflammation, and pain in the fingers and knuckles.

Finger swelling can happen when inflammation or fluid accumulates in the tissues or joints of one or all of the fingers. A person may lose some mobility and notice that their fingers are stiffer and more tender than usual.

Both minor and more severe infections and conditions can cause varying degrees of swelling in the fingers. If someone experiences finger swelling along with pain, heat, and flushing, they should seek urgent medical advice.

Read on to learn more about some potential causes of finger joint swelling that are not arthritis, accompanying symptoms, and treatment options.

During hot weather, the blood vessels dilate. This makes it possible for more blood to flow through the skin, which cools it down as it loses heat to the air. When this happens, people may notice their fingers and feet swelling.


Generally, when someone experiences heat edema, their skin is shinier and stretched around the swollen area. They may also feel a tightness in their fingers when picking up cups and other objects.


To reduce heat edema, people should try to move into the shade. They should also ensure that they eat and drink enough during the day.

When a person exercises, they feel hotter. To cool down, the body pushes the blood closer to the surface of the skin to dissipate the heat. When this happens, a person may notice swelling in their hands, fingers, and feet.

However, finger swelling is sometimes a symptom of a more serious condition called hyponatremia. Exercise-related hyponatremia occurs when blood sodium concentration drops to a dangerous level because a person is exercising and drinking too much water without replacing lost electrolytes.


The early stages of hyponatremia may present with puffiness and swelling in the hands and feet. If a person has hyponatremia, they require urgent medical attention.

Some other symptoms of hyponatremia include:

  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • seizures
  • coma


Finger swelling from exercising usually goes down when a person takes a break or ends their workout.

Treatment for hyponatremia varies depending on how low a person’s blood sodium levels are. Some people may need to stop drinking until they urinate, whereas others may need intravenous (IV) saline.

When blood sodium levels are severely low, some people may need hospital admission for close monitoring and frequent blood work. This is because hyponatremia requires very careful correction. However, if correction occurs too quickly, some people can become sicker, and this can be life threatening.

Common causes of hand and finger injuries include:

  • falls
  • sports
  • catching fingers in machines
  • thermal burns
  • chemical burns

When a person hurts their hand or fingers, they usually experience pain and swelling and lose finger mobility for a while.

If the damage is particularly severe, a person may later develop complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). CRPS occurs when the body’s inflammatory response to the injury is too high.


Some CRPS symptoms include:

  • stiffness
  • pain
  • swelling
  • changes in skin color


When a person injures their finger, immediate treatment usually includes:

  • taking over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medications
  • taking OTC pain relief medications
  • taping the finger to restrict movement

If stiffness develops, the person may need to perform finger exercises and continue to take anti-inflammatory medications.

Hand and finger infections are common in people who work on farms and building sites. Staphylococcus aureus is the most prevalent bacterial hand infection and is responsible for 80% of cases.

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is the most common viral infection, whereas Trichophyton, Microsporum, and Epidermophyton species tend to cause most fungal infections.


Depending on where the infection is, a person could experience:

  • pain
  • heat around the swelling
  • skin darkening
  • abscess
  • loss of finger function

A person may also experience systemic infections, which cause symptoms such as fever and chills. This may be more likely if there is joint involvement of the infection.


Antibiotics can treat bacterial infections. HSV could resolve on its own, but a doctor may recommend antiviral treatment if it does not. Depending on how severe a fungal infection is, a doctor usually prescribes topical antifungal medications to apply to the affected area before considering oral medication.

Some swelling in the fingers is normal during pregnancy. However, if swelling occurs rapidly and with other symptoms, a person should contact a doctor immediately.

In the last trimester of pregnancy, some people experience preeclampsia. When this happens, blood pressure and swelling suddenly increase, which can be dangerous for both the parent and the fetus.


When a person has preeclampsia, they may experience:

  • swelling in the fingers, hands, and feet
  • a persistent headache
  • blurry vision
  • difficulty breathing

Learn more about preeclampsia.


When preeclampsia is mild, a doctor usually watches the person closely until they give birth. During this time, the doctor may test their blood and urine and monitor the fetus with an ultrasound.

In severe cases of preeclampsia, the individual may receive IV medication to control their blood pressure and prevent seizures.

When someone has carpal tunnel syndrome, the median nerve in the wrist is compressed, which causes pain in the hands and fingers. In most cases, people report that their fingers feel swollen but that they cannot actually see any swelling.


Some other symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • numbness in the index and middle fingers
  • tingling during the day and night
  • difficulty grasping objects
  • weakness


A doctor may recommend the following carpal tunnel treatments:

  • splinting
  • avoiding activities that trigger pain
  • taking OTC pain relief medications
  • trying alternative therapies, such as acupuncture
  • undergoing surgery

Learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome.

Bursitis occurs when the bursa inflames. Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that sit between bones, tendons, and muscles. Bursitis can develop anywhere in the body, including the fingers, but common areas of inflammation tend to be in the hips, elbows, and knees.

When someone overuses their joints, it can lead to bursitis.


Some symptoms of bursitis include:

  • pain
  • tenderness around joint
  • reduced joint mobility
  • swelling and skin darkening


Treatment options for non-infectious bursitis in the finger include:

  • resting the area
  • icing the area
  • taking OTC anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications
  • taping up the finger to reduce movement

Learn more about bursitis.

Scleroderma means hard skin. It is an autoimmune condition that affects the skin and underlying connective tissue. It can also sometimes lead to multi-organ involvement.


When a person has this condition, they may notice their skin becoming stiff and swollen around the finger joints.

Some other symptoms of localized scleroderma include:

  • pale fingers
  • finger joint pain
  • taut and shiny skin where there is swelling
  • immobile fingers


There is currently no cure for scleroderma, but doctors can treat hardened skin and inflammation using corticosteroids.

Learn more about scleroderma.

Some other potential causes of finger swelling include:

  • mallet finger
  • nailbed injuries
  • trigger finger
  • Dupuytren’s contracture
  • cysts
  • tumors

People typically experience pain and swelling in the fingers after a sprain or injury. If the swelling does not show any signs of reducing after a few days, a person should contact a doctor — especially if the area feels hot.

Sometimes, finger swelling is a symptom of a more serious condition, such as preeclampsia or scleroderma. In these cases, a person usually experiences other symptoms, such as headaches and pale fingers, respectively.

Finger swelling has various causes. Injuries, physical activities, and environmental factors such as hot weather can all cause finger swelling. Some rare autoimmune conditions, such as localized scleroderma, can also present with finger joint swelling.

If a person is pregnant and their fingers swell rapidly, they should contact a doctor to rule out preeclampsia.

One swollen finger: Causes and treatment

Swelling in a single finger usually results from an injury or minor infection. It may also be a sign of arthritis, gout, or a benign growth.

This article discusses possible causes of one swollen finger. It also looks at treatment options and when to contact a doctor.

Breaking, dislocating, or spraining a finger can result in swelling.

If a person has sprained their finger, they will experience pain and stiffness alongside the swelling.

If a person has dislocated their finger, the finger may appear crooked. A dislocated finger may cause the following symptoms:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • numbness
  • difficulty moving the finger
  • bruising and skin discoloration

It can be difficult for a person to know if the finger is sprained, broken, or dislocated. However, a person should see a medical professional as soon as possible if they notice the following symptoms:

  • the finger points at an odd angle
  • the finger appears blue or numb
  • there is a cut and bone is visible
  • there is a cut and bone is poking out of the finger

If a finger appears to be broken or dislocated, it is important to get medical attention as soon as possible.

People should not try to move a dislocated finger back into the joint themselves, as this can cause further damage. A health professional can put the bone back in the joint and fit a splint or cast to keep it in position.

For complicated breaks, surgery may be the best option. A surgeon may insert small pins, screws, or rods into the finger to hold the fractured bones together while they heal.

For a mild sprain, rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) techniques can help to reduce swelling and inflammation.

A person may also strap the finger to the one next to it to prevent bending and further injury. If the finger has swollen a lot, wait until the swelling subsides before taping it up.

Mallet finger, also known as baseball finger, describes an injury to the tendon at the end of the finger.

This tendon usually helps the finger to straighten. An injury to the top of the finger can cause the tendon to rupture, resulting in swelling, pain, and bruising.

A doctor will order X-rays to check the damage to the finger and use a splint to straighten the finger until it heals.

A range of infections can cause the finger to become swollen, painful, and hot.

An infection near the nail bed can cause swelling and tenderness. This is called paronychia.

The following may cause paronychia:

  • nail biting
  • splinters
  • pushing cuticles back too far
  • contact dermatitis or eczema

Insect bites or stings directly to the finger can cause swelling, pain, and inflammation around the site.

Occasionally stings or bites can develop into an infection if bacteria gets in.

Symptoms include tenderness, heat, and discharge or pus from the bite.

Erythema also occurs around the site of infection. On lighter skin, this appears as red. On darker skin, the surrounding area may look purple or burgundy.


Bacterial infections typically require antibiotics.

A healthcare professional may also need to drain pus from the infected area with a small incision. Soaking the affected finger in warm, salted water may also help, along with pain relief medication, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

It is best to get medical attention if swelling and erythema develop quickly after an insect bite or sting, as this can be a sign of an allergy rather than an infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 90 people in the United States died because of allergic reactions to insect stings between 2000–2017.

There are a few benign, or noncancerous, hand tumors that can appear in the hands and fingers, causing swelling.

These include:


This is a bone tumor that begins in the cartilage. It typically affects the long, small bones of the hands and feet.

It is the most common type of hand tumor. Enchondroma is most common in people between 10-20 years, though it can occur at any age.

Symptoms include:

  • hand pain if the tumor is large
  • enlargement of the finger
  • slow bone growth

Ganglion cyst

This is a fluid-filled cyst that forms next to a joint or tendon. Although ganglion cysts typically appear on the back of the wrist, they can also develop at the base of the finger.

They can change in size, and although harmless, can cause pain or a dull ache.

If the cyst ruptures, the area may become swollen and sore for a few days.

Epidermal inclusion cyst

Epidermal inclusion cysts are fibrous cysts formed from keratin and dead skin cells. They present as flesh-colored, firm nodules.

They can occur anywhere on the body, including the fingers.

Giant cell tumor

This is a solid mass that typically forms next to a tendon.

According to a 2019 article, giant cell tumors in the hand are rare, making up only 2% of all hand tumors.

A giant cell tumor can resemble an enchondroma, which means doctors sometimes find it challenging to make a correct diagnosis.

The article notes that giant cell tumors on the hand grow quickly and have a high recurrence rate.

These tumors do not always cause swelling and inflammation but can cause localized pain and limited movement.


Treatment will depend on the type of growth.

Enchondromas may require surgery or bone grafting. If there is no sign of growth or weakening of the bone, a healthcare professional may recommend watchful waiting.

Ganglion cysts do not typically require treatment. However, if it is large or causing discomfort, a healthcare professional may drain the cyst or surgically remove it.

Epidermal inclusion cysts and giant cell tumors require surgical intervention.

If a person notices a growth appearing, they should see a medical professional to get a correct diagnosis.

Gout is a common type of inflammatory arthritis that can cause pain and swelling in one joint at a time.

People with gout have high uric acid levels, causing crystals to build up in the body’s joints and tissues.

Symptoms include:

  • intense pain
  • swelling
  • heat
  • erythema

A person can treat gout with a combination of medication and self-management strategies, such as:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • steroids
  • drugs to lower uric acid levels in the blood
  • changes to diet and lifestyle

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an immune system disorder that attacks the joints, causing inflammation, swelling, and pain. It typically affects the hands, wrists, and feet.

Stiffness, tenderness, pain, or swelling in one or two fingers, often around the middle and the base of the fingers, can be early symptoms of RA.

Inflammation from RA can also cause an increase in joint fluid, making swelling worse.


There is no cure for RA, but treatment can help reduce symptoms and prevent flare-ups.

Medication may include:

  • disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • biological response modifiers (biologicals)
  • self-management strategies that help reduce pain and increase mobility.

Septic arthritis is an infection in the fluid and tissues around the joint that causes arthritis-like symptoms. It can occur due to injury, surgery, or bacteria traveling from another area of infection to the joints, such as a finger.

As well as joint pain and swelling, symptoms may also include a fever, erythema around the joint, and warmth.

According to Johns Hopkins, septic arthritis is more common in children than adults. It is also more common in people with other forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis and RA.

Without treatment, septic arthritis can result in permanent joint damage, so it is essential to get a diagnosis as soon as possible.


A person’s age and general health may affect what treatment is available for septic arthritis. The severity of the infection may also affect treatment options.

It will usually include a combination of:

  • antibiotics
  • draining pus from the joint
  • medication to relieve pain and fever
  • a splint on the affected joint

Other very rare causes include:

  • Osteoarticular tuberculosis (TB): According to a 2015 article, osteoarticular TB represents 5% of all cases of TB. A swollen finger is a rare symptom of TB.
  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD): A rare nervous system disorder that can cause swelling and burning pain in one joint, often in the finger.
  • Sarcoidosis: An inflammatory condition that can cause a swollen finger.
  • Malignant tumors: Malignant tumors in the hands and wrists can also cause swelling in the finger, though these are rare.

A person can treat some of the causes of a swollen finger at home.

However, people should seek medical advice as soon as possible if they suspect that the finger is broken or dislocated or if there is any sign of infection.

Many causes and health conditions can cause a single finger to swell, but most are not serious.

RICE techniques can help treat a swollen finger at home, though it may be necessary to see a healthcare professional for further tests and treatment.

There may be a more serious underlying cause for a swollen finger, and some people may require further medical treatment.

Swollen finger on hand | Causes and treatment

Causes of everything trouble

The most common cause of swelling of the finger is its injury. At the same time, along with edema, symptoms such as pain, hematoma, bleeding, and difficulty in mobility can be observed. A bruise, cut, sprain, dislocation, fracture or burn can cause the phalanges of the fingers to hurt and swell. In addition, an insect bite can also become the “culprit” of edema.

The finger seems to swell and hurt for no particular reason, but such symptoms may be associated with various forms of arthritis (infectious, post-traumatic, rheumatoid, metabolic, and post-operative). It should also be noted that joints can be prone to osteoarthritis or degenerative tissue damage. Symptoms of the above diseases are accompanied by the appearance of swelling of the entire hand, an increase in temperature (at the site of the affected area, less often of the entire body), as well as redness of the skin areas. There are cases when in men at a young age psoriasis (chronic skin inflammation), as well as ankylosing spondylitis (characterized by damage to the joints in the sacroiliac joints and spine) occur together with rheumatoid arthritis. At the same time, both hands, and only one of them, can fall under the influence of a pathological factor.

Symptoms of reactive arthritis, which appears after the transfer of infectious diseases (genitourinary, intestinal, nasopharyngeal), may be swollen and reddened fingers on the upper and lower extremities. Osteoarthritis, in which the destruction of the cartilage lining between the joints and the appearance of osteophytes (bone growths), is accompanied by the fact that the thumb on the hand swells and hurts, and in particular the bone on it. Oncological processes in tissues are also capable of causing a tumor, these include:

  • melanoma,
  • basilioma,
  • nevus.

Meanwhile, as clinical practice shows, it is rare to find neoplasms of bone tissue on the upper limbs.

Accompanying tumor symptoms of intoxication (pain in the head, vomiting, chills, nausea, fever, thirst) may indicate the presence of erysipelas. The disease appears when the immune system decreases and group B streptococcus develops. Reddening of the skin is observed in the affected area, when touched, heat is felt and painful sensations appear.

In contact dermatitis, swelling occurs in a specific area on the finger. This usually happens when the watch bracelet is very close to the hand or the material of the accessory causes an allergic reaction. On the fingers, swelling can also be the result of a cold allergy, which is characterized by the appearance of swelling, itching and rashes in the form of red spots.

Spasm in the blood vessels of the hands, which appears as a result of exposure to negative temperatures or an increased level of stress is called Raynaud’s syndrome. Reversible discomfort appears in the form of a change in skin color (first it turns white, then turns blue and red), which are provoked by a decrease in blood circulation and its subsequent normalization. Because of this, swelling is observed, a burning sensation and pain are felt.

Diagnosis is true…

At the first stage of diagnosis, a visual examination and anamnesis are carried out, followed by a series of studies, which include

  • general and biochemical analysis of blood and urine;
  • radiography;
  • Ultrasound, MRI and CT.

If cancer is suspected, a biopsy may be ordered for subsequent more precise examination under a microscope.

…and the essence of treatment is

When the reasons why the fingers are swollen and sore have been established, the patient is prescribed symptomatic and pathogenetic (the purpose of which is to eliminate the very cause) drugs, which include analgesics, NSAIDs, antihistamines, antibiotics, diuretics, chondroprotectors. Medicines containing synthetic hormones are prescribed for people with hormonal imbalance.

When the fingers are swollen and the joints hurt, the treatment may include complex therapy with physiotherapy (ultrahigh frequency, centimeter, ultraviolet therapy, electrophoresis).

Surgical methods – in case of emergency

Surgery will be necessary if there is an open fracture, ligament injury or severe injury. Panaritium can also serve as an indication for surgical intervention. To cope with this disease, it is imperative to eliminate the inflamed focus with pus, thoroughly clean the cavity with the infection and apply stitches. After the operation, it is necessary to make dressings, take antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Surgery may be required if cartilage and joint surfaces are severely damaged in the advanced stages of arthritis or arthrosis, with fingers swollen, stiff and painful. In especially severe cases, arthroplasty is prescribed, when a worn joint is replaced with an artificial one.

Surgery may be performed in the presence of a malignant tumor. The oncologist prepares an individual therapy program for each patient.

Finger arthritis – symptoms, causes, treatment

This disease is treated by a neurologist.

Make an appointment


Arthritis of the hands is an inflammation of the joints of the fingers. Accompanied by pain that occurs in motion and at rest, swelling, hyperemia, loss of mobility and deformation of the shape of the hand. It is characterized by long development, gradual thinning of the tissue of the metacarpophalangeal and interphalangeal cartilages of the hands. Women are more susceptible to the disease, ignoring the problem leads to loss of finger mobility and disability. Consider methods for early detection and effective treatment of arthritis.

CMRT specialist tells

Kuchenkov A.V.

Orthopedist • Traumatologist • Surgeon • Phlebologist • Sports doctor • 24 years of experience

Publication date: June 20, 2022

Verification date: February 08, 2023

All facts have been verified by a doctor.

Contents of the article

    Causes of arthritis of the fingers

    Symptoms of arthritis of the fingers

    Stages of development

    How to diagnose

    Differential diagnosis involves laboratory tests of blood and urine. Additionally, x-rays are prescribed. But the most informative method for diagnosing inflammation of the joints of the fingers is MRI. Experienced radiologists at the CMRT clinic determine changes in any type of arthritis from a series of images.

    Tomography helps to identify pathology at an early stage of development, start treatment in a timely manner, and avoid serious complications and disability. If MRI is not possible, alternative methods of examination are prescribed – ultrasound of the joints or CT.

    Which doctor to contact

    Primarily with symptoms, they turn to a therapist who will prescribe the necessary tests, X-ray, MRI examination. Arthritis in the hands and feet is treated by a rheumatologist, orthopedist.

    Charin Yury Konstantinovich

    Orthopedist • Traumatologist • Vertebrologist
    experience 34 years

    Dikhnich Oleg Anatolyevich

    Orthopedist • Traumatologist
    experience 31 years

    Gaiduk Alexander Alexandrovich

    Orthopedist • Physical therapy doctor • Physiotherapist
    experience 30 years

    Bodan Stanislav Mikhailovich

    Orthopedist • Traumatologist
    experience 27 years

    Kuchenkov Alexander Viktorovich

    Orthopedist • Traumatologist • Surgeon • Phlebologist • Sports doctor
    experience 24 years

    Samarin Oleg Vladimirovich

    Orthopedist • Traumatologist • Vertebrologist
    experience 24 years

    Tkachenko Maxim Viktorovich

    Orthopedist • Traumatologist
    experience 20 years

    Bulatsky Sergey Olegovich

    Orthopedist • Traumatologist
    experience 16 years

    Pivkovsky Dmitry Igorevich

    Orthopedist • Traumatologist
    experience 12 years

    Stepanov Vladimir Vladimirovich

    Orthopedist • Traumatologist • Vertebrologist
    experience 10 years

    Teleev Marat Sultanbekovich

    Orthopedist • Traumatologist • Sports doctor
    experience 10 years

    Shtanko Vladislav Anatolyevich

    Orthopedist • Traumatologist
    experience 9 years

    Atamuradov Toyli Atamuradovich

    Orthopedist • Sports doctor • Surgeon
    experience 8 years

    Akhmedov Kazali Muradovich

    Orthopedist • Traumatologist
    experience 6 years

    Orazmyradov Khalnazar Ataballyevich

    Orthopedist • Traumatologist
    experience 5 years

    Sattorov Abboskhon Nodirovich

    Orthopedist • Traumatologist
    experience 4 years

    Treatment of arthritis of the fingers in CMRT clinics

    Arthritis of the fingers – treatment, depending on the type of pathology, provides for a complex of therapeutic measures.

    Taking symptomatic medicines – antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, painkillers, chondroprotectors, vitamin complexes.

    Physiotherapeutic procedures – magnetotherapy, ultraviolet radiation, electro- and phonophoresis, shock wave therapy, massage. Procedures help to get the maximum therapeutic effect.

    Physical therapy exercises are prescribed after the relief of an acute period. Classes are aimed at strengthening muscles, developing joint mobility, and preventing further development of pathology.

    Selection of a diet menu – a consultation with a nutritionist is required to exclude foods that cause an exacerbation of the disease.

    The success of treatment and the maintenance of stable remission depend on the correct therapeutic tactics chosen by the attending physician. Self-treatment of hand arthritis is unacceptable, fraught with aggravation of the situation and complications. You can make an appointment for a consultation by phone or through the online form on the website.