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:

Other causes of finger clubbing

Finger clubbing can also have other causes including:

  • Dysentery (infectious inflammation of the colon, causing severe diarrhea)
  • 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
  • Organ failure or dysfunction
  • Respiratory failure
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection

References:

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. Accessed June 2, 2011.

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. Accessed June 2, 2011.

INTRODUCTION

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.... Read more about finger clubbingintroduction

SYMPTOMS

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.... Read more about finger clubbingsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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