What causes knuckle pain?
Injury or damage to any of the structures in the knuckle can cause knuckle pain. Diseases that affect the entire body, such as diabetes, arthritis, or vascular disease, are more complex processes that can lead to knuckle pain.
Traumatic causes of knuckle pain
A number of common injuries can cause knuckle pain including:
Inflammatory causes of knuckle pain
Inflammation can cause knuckle pain that is restricted to one knuckle or even to a specific location on one knuckle. Other inflammatory conditions can cause knuckle pain that involves several fingers or all fingers. Examples of inflammatory causes of knuckle pain include:
- Gout (type of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in the joints)
- Peripheral neuropathy (disorder that causes dysfunction of nerves that lie outside your brain and spinal cord)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation)
- Skin ulceration
- Tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon)
- Vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels, which can lead to atherosclerosis, stroke, heart attack, and other cardiac conditions)
Infectious causes of knuckle pain
Infectious processes can also cause knuckle pain including:
- Cellulitis (skin and soft tissue infection)
- Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
- Papilloma virus infection (warts)
Other causes of knuckle pain
Knuckle pain can also be caused by problems that affect multiple body systems including:
- Alcohol abuse
- Benign or malignant tumors
- Blood clots
- Bone spurs
- Buerger’s disease (acute inflammation and clotting of arteries and veins)
- Congenital deformities
- Diabetes (chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy)
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD, also called peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, which is a narrowing of arteries due to a buildup of fat and cholesterol on the artery walls, which limits blood flow to the extremities)
- Raynaud’s disease (spasms of small blood vessels of the fingers and toes, reducing blood circulation; has no known cause)
Serious or life-threatening causes of knuckle pain
Although life-threatening causes of knuckle pain are rare, all serious injuries, including hand and foot injuries, should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting.
Questions for diagnosing the cause of knuckle pain
To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your knuckle pain including:
- How long have you had knuckle pain?
- Is your pain constant, or does it come and go?
- What other symptoms are you experiencing?
- When do your symptoms occur?
- Are your symptoms worsened or relieved by movement or specific activities?
What are the potential complications of knuckle pain?
Managing the underlying causes of knuckle pain can, in many cases, prevent the development of serious complications, such as joint deformity, widespread infection, gangrene, or even amputation. Left untreated, long-term complications, such as infection throughout the body or gangrene of the feet, can be life threatening. Possible complications of untreated knuckle pain include:
- Joint deformity and destruction
- Necrosis (death) of tissues and gangrene, which may require removal of the dead tissues or amputation
- Sepsis (life-threatening bacterial blood infection)
- Serious infections and gangrene
- Spread of cancer
- Spread of infection
Hand injuries and disorders. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/handinjuriesanddisorders.html. Accessed May 11, 2011.
Osteoarthritis. PubMed Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001460/. Accessed May 11, 2011.
Rheumatoid arthritis. PubMed Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001467/. Accessed May 11, 2011.
What is knuckle pain?
Pain in your knuckle can arise from a number of different causes. Knuckle pain may develop as a result of conditions affecting any of the structures in the knuckle, including skin, nerves, muscles, joints, tendons, bones, ligaments, blood vessels, and connective tissue. Injury from trauma and osteoarthritis are common causes of knuckle pain.... Read more about knuckle pain introduction
What other symptoms might occur with knuckle pain?
Knuckle pain may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on its cause and any underlying diseases or conditions. Some conditions that may affect the hands, such as diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage due to high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes), can cause symptoms in other body systems.... Read more about knuckle pain symptoms