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Clubbing of the fingers or toes

Definition

Clubbing is changes in the areas under and around the toenails and fingernails that occur with some disorders. The nails also show changes.

Alternative Names

Clubbing

Considerations

Common symptoms of clubbing:

  • The nail beds soften. The nails may seem to "float" instead of being firmly attached.
  • The nails forms a sharper angle with the cuticle.
  • The last part of the finger may appear large or bulging. It may also be warm and red.
  • The nail curves downward so it looks like the round part of an upside-down spoon.

Clubbing can develop quickly, often within weeks. It also can go away quickly when its cause is treated.

Causes

Lung cancer is the most common cause of clubbing. Clubbing often occurs in heart and lung diseases that reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood. These may include:

Other causes of clubbing:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If you notice clubbing, call your health care provider.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

A person with clubbing often has symptoms of another condition. Diagnosing that condition is based on:

  • Family history
  • Medical history
  • Physical exam that looks at the lungs and chest

The provider may ask questions such as:

  • Do you have any trouble breathing?
  • Do you have clubbing of the fingers, toes, or both?
  • When did you first notice this? Do you think it is getting worse?
  • Does the skin ever have a blue color?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

The following tests may be done:

There is no treatment for the clubbing itself. The cause of clubbing can be treated, however.

Images

Clubbing
Clubbed fingers

References

Davis JL, Murray JF. History and physical examinations. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst MD, et al. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 16.

Review Date: 
4/21/2015
Reviewed By: 
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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