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Signs of infection in a finger, hand, or wrist

Infection can develop after an injury or wound to the skin, a bite or sting, a tattoo or piercing, or other skin problems. Signs of infection may include:

  • Increased pain, swelling, redness, or warmth around the affected area.
  • Red streaks extending from the affected area.
  • Drainage of pus from the area.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit or neck.
  • Fever.

It is normal to have some pain and swelling following an injury. Pain and swelling that occur with redness, red streaking, tenderness, heat, fever, or puslike drainage may be caused by an infection. An infection most often develops when germs (bacteria) enter the cut, punctured, or scraped skin after an injury. What starts as a minor wound infection (such as an infection around a nail bed) can lead to a serious infection, such as:

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  • A skin infection (cellulitis).
  • A pus-filled pocket (abscess) just under the skin surface or deep in tissue. This is known as a felon when it involves the end of a finger and is usually caused by an infected puncture wound.
  • A joint infection (infectious arthritis).
  • A bone infection (osteomyelitis).
  • An infection of the flexor tendon sheath (septic tenosynovitis).
  • An infection by the herpes virus (herpetic whitlow).
  • A nail bed infection (paronychia).

People who have conditions such as diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, or immune system problems have a greater risk of developing an infection and complications from an infection.

Immediate medical treatment of an infection may prevent serious complications.

Author Jan Nissl, RN, BS
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Tracy Landauer
Primary Medical Reviewer William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Updated November 13, 2008

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 13, 2008
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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