Symptoms of a finger infection may vary, depending upon the location and severity. For instance, symptoms of a fingernail infection may be discoloration and cracked or hardened nails. An infection from a cut to the skin may produce a discharge of pus and pain. Swelling and red streaks on the surface of the skin may be other common symptoms of an infection in the finger. It is not uncommon to experience low-grade to moderate fever when a finger becomes infected.
When a fingernail becomes infected, the surrounding skin will usually be inflamed. Redness and swelling generally occur with infected fingernails. An infected fingernail may produce drainage, although some mild cases will show discoloration to the nail and slight discomfort. Drainage from underneath the nail may include yellowish-green pus. Soreness and pain will generally occur when the area is touched.
Finger infections ranging from mild to moderate may also produce itching. The itching generally occurs in the early stages of infection, followed by more noticeable symptoms. An infection due to a lesion or cut may begin with redness to the skin of an injury that does not appear to heal. A throbbing or burning pain may be felt in the area, and pus may emerge as pressure is exerted.
In severe cases of a finger infection, range of motion may be affected. The inability to move the finger freely may be one symptom of infection. The stiff joint of an infected finger may also be swollen and red. Body temperature may be elevated and increase if the infection is not treated in a timely manner.
Common causes of a finger infection are bacteria that may enter the body through an open cut, or second- or third-degree burns to a finger. Viral infections of the fingertip are referred to in medical terms as herpetic whitlow. Cellulitis may also cause infection of the finger, although the underlying tissue is generally not affected.
Treatment of a finger infection may include a procedure known as incision and drain. This is done by a physician who drains the infected fluid from the area. A topical antibacterial ointment may be applied to the finger or around the fingernail. In some cases, the patient will be instructed to soak the finger in warm water several times a day. The patient may also be given a course of oral antibiotics to treat the finger infection.