A swollen finger could be the result of a variety of causes. Trauma and injury, inflammation, pregnancy and infection are some of the possible causes of swollen fingers. Sometimes, a swollen finger could indicate a more serious condition. Among the specific conditions that might cause a swollen finger are cellulitis, herpetic whitlow, rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that can occur on any part of the body, including the fingers. This infection is one of the most common causes of swollen fingers that might be initiated by a minor trauma, such as a bruise, through which bacteria will be introduced into the tissues underneath the skin. Cellulitis causes the fingers to become swollen and tender to the touch.
Herpetic whitlow, or finger herpes, is caused by the herpes simplex virus. This virus is highly contagious and spreads through contact with infected lesions that might appear on the thumb or other fingers. Herpetic whitlow can also cause swollen fingers. Symptoms of an infection with this virus include a swelling and reddening of the affected finger and thumb.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects the immune system. A healthy immune system destroys foreign substances, such as bacteria, in the body. An autoimmune disease causes the immune system to attack its own cells, leading to stiffness, swelling and deformities in various parts of the body, including the fingers.
Pregnancy is also one of the more common causes of swollen fingers in women. This is because of a condition known as edema, which leads to water retention in pregnant women. The water retention causes swollen limbs and fingers.
Injuries such as sprains, cuts and breaks in the bones in the fingers can cause them to swell. Often, sprains might require compressions to bring the swelling down. Broken bones have to be reset and put in a splint so that they can heal properly.
Weight gain is another one of the causes of swollen fingers. Any increase in weight will generally be distributed throughout the body, leading to an increase in the size of the finger. This type of swelling will go down in proportion to any weight loss.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs as a result of pressure on the tendons and median nerves in the wrist. Symptoms of this condition might include some swelling and numbness in the fingers. Other symptoms include some pain and a general weakness, which can reduce the person's ability to grasp objects with the fingers. This pain and weakness might radiate to the hands and forearm.