What It Looks Like | How To Check | Causes | How Long It Lasts | What It Tells Your Health Care Provider | Get Support
Finger clubbing — which includes swelling of the fingertips and changes to the appearance of fingernails — is a common symptom of lung cancer: Around 80 percent of people with finger clubbing have lung cancer. Sometimes called “clubbed fingers,” finger clubbing may run in families as a harmless trait. It may also be an indication of heart, liver, or other lung disorders.
This article will cover what finger clubbing looks like, its causes, and when to see your health care provider.
People with finger clubbing may have:
Finger clubbing usually occurs slowly, so you may not initially notice it’s happening.
If you do see anything early on, it may be reddening and softening of the nail bed (the soft skin underneath your nails). If you touch your nails, they might also feel spongy.
Eventually, your nails will have a downward curve and a shiny appearance. You might also notice an enlargement of your fingertips.
Since clubbed fingers can take many years to develop, it may be hard to notice. You can check for the Schamroth sign to see if your fingers have become clubbed.
Checking for the Schamroth sign entails placing the nails of both index fingers together up to the last joint as if you’re forming the top of a heart shape. You should be able to see a diamond-shaped window of space form between your nails and the joints closest to your fingertips. If you don’t see this space, then you might have finger clubbing.
In 80 percent of cases of clubbed fingers, lung cancer is the cause. It may be linked to low oxygen, which can occur in lung cancer and other conditions. In lung cancer, finger clubbing is thought to be associated with excessive amounts of growth factors that encourage the growth of blood vessels.
However, some lung cancer treatments and comorbidities (other health conditions you may have at the same time) can also contribute to nail or finger changes.
Some lung cancer treatments may cause nail or finger changes. Some of these may look similar to finger clubbing, but they’re not symptoms of finger clubbing.
The following are some medications used to treat lung cancer that can cause nail changes and swelling of your fingertips:
Some comorbidities of lung cancer are linked to clubbed fingers. Some of these other medical conditions include:
Finger clubbing can be a temporary or a long-term symptom depending on what’s causing it. If it’s caused by a health condition, treating the condition may reverse the finger clubbing. If finger clubbing is the result of a chronic condition or cancer, clubbing may be long term or permanent.
Clubbed fingers typically don’t require treatment, but it’s good to let your health care provider know if you develop this symptom since clubbed fingers can be connected to serious medical conditions.
If you notice a downward curve in your fingernails and swelling in your fingertips, notify your health care provider, who will physically examine your fingers. They may ask about other symptoms and order some blood and lab tests to diagnose or rule out health conditions that may be causing clubbed fingers.
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