What causes finger clubbing?
The exact cause of finger clubbing is not known, but it is a common symptom of respiratory disease, congenital heart disease, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Respiratory disease causes of finger clubbing
Finger clubbing may be caused by respiratory diseases including:
- Bronchiectasis (destruction and widening of the large airways)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and chronic bronchitis
- Cystic fibrosis (thick mucus in the lungs and respiratory tract)
- Lung abscess
- Lung cancer
- Pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of the lungs)
Congenital cardiac disease causes of finger clubbing
Finger clubbing can also be caused by congenital cardiac diseases including:
- Tetralogy of Fallot (combination of four structural defects)
- Total anomalous pulmonary venous return (TAPVR; rare condition in which the pulmonary veins do not empty into the heart)
- Transposition of the great vessels (rare condition in which the major vessels entering or leaving the heart are misconnected
Gastrointestinal disease causes of finger clubbing
Finger clubbing can also be caused by gastrointestinal diseases including:
- Celiac disease (severe sensitivity to gluten from wheat and other grains that causes intestinal damage)
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Inflammatory bowel disease (includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
- Liver cancer
Other causes of finger clubbing
Finger clubbing can also have other causes including:
- Acromegaly (gigantism caused by a pituitary tumor)
- Atrial myxoma (tumor arising within heart)
- Dysentery (infectious inflammation of the colon, causing severe diarrhea)
- Endocarditis (inflammation of heart tissue, often infectious)
- Graves’ disease (type of hyperthyroidism resulting in excessive thyroid hormone production)
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cancer of the lymph tissues)
Questions for diagnosing the cause of finger clubbing
To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your finger clubbing including:
- Do you have any other symptoms?
- Do you have difficulty breathing?
- What medications are you taking?
- When did you first notice finger clubbing?
What are the potential complications of finger clubbing?
Because finger clubbing can be due to serious diseases that cause cyanosis, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:
- Heart failure
- Long-term physical disability
- Organ failure or dysfunction
- Respiratory failure
- Spread of cancer
- Spread of infection
- Nail abnormalities. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003247.htm.
- Clubbing of the fingers or toes. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003282.htm.
- Domino FJ (Ed.) Five Minute Clinical Consult. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013.
What is finger clubbing?
Finger clubbing is a thickening of the fingertips that gives them an abnormal rounded appearance. The exact cause of finger clubbing is not known, but it is a common symptom of respiratory disease, congenital heart disease, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Respiratory diseases associated with finger clubbing include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Read more about finger clubbingintroduction
What other symptoms might occur with finger clubbing?
Finger clubbing may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition and may also involve the respiratory, cardiovascular or gastrointestinal systems.
Respiratory system symptoms that may occur along with finger clubbingFinger clubbing may accompany other symptoms that affect the respiratory system including:
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