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The Mystery of the Purple Finger: What Could Have Caused It?

By HERWriter
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purple finger mystery: what caused it? Dmitry Shabanov/PhotoSpin

I looked at my middle finger and was surprised to see the intensity of the purple color of my skin. I tried to think, what could have caused this purple episode to occur in a single finger? Was it serious?

The previous night I had a sudden pain, like an insect had stung me, on the back of my middle finger. I could not see any bite but went ahead and iced it a couple times before bed.

The next day I forgot about my finger, until I noticed it while washing my hands. The skin of my middle finger was incredibly purple like it was bruised or had been dipped in grape jelly.

The odd thing was, only the backside of my middle finger from one knuckle down from the tip to the base was purple. The inside skin of the finger looked normal. The finger did not appear swollen and barely was painful when I squeezed it. I did not have any other symptoms of feeling poorly.

Like many of you would do in this situation, I searched the web. Interestingly, I found numerous forum postings from people who described similar situations that had happened to them. Like me, some of them also had their middle finger affected.

After much hunting, I found a few medical articles that described what it could be and found a photo of someone else’s hand that looked surprisingly like mine. (1)

The diagnosis was a paroxysmal finger hematoma or Achenbach syndrome. Even though it is supposed to be uncommon, based on the numbers of people who posted about similar episodes, it may happen more often than the medical community thinks.

Achenbach syndrome is a benign self-limiting condition of sudden unexplained bruising of the hand or fingers. It is more common in women then men and the middle and index fingers are most affected.

Typically the palm side of the finger shows the bruising after a sudden episode of pain or itching, and there maybe swelling and coldness of the area. The fingertip is usually not involved. The bruising resolves in a few days, which mine did.

While I was able to determine what my purple finger was probably caused by, there are several more serious problems that can cause purple fingers or toes.

Add a Comment15 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I have this too! It probably only happens maybe a couple of times a year and I don't think I've ever thought too much about it.
That was until it happened again last Sunday. I was just pottering in the kitchen, not doing anything strenuous when when I suddenly felt a very sharp pain and it almost felt like something 'twanged' in my index finger which then went very hot and itchy. Within about 5 minutes, what looked like a bruise or blood blister started to develop under the skin. By the evening it was very dark purple bruise but limited to the top joint of my index finger. This made me Google it to see what could have caused it, which brought me to this article. Very interesting to read what it might be.
As I've said, maybe have a couple of episodes like this twice a year and think I have had them for about 10 years of so.

May 9, 2017 - 8:52am
EmpowHER Guest

Yes, I have this as well. It can be quite painful initially, sometimes into the next day. It happens randomly, not due to any trauma. I know several women who have this and I don't think it is as rare as they think it is. My doctor didn't know what it was and of course said I must have bumped it, as if I wouldn't remember this. I finally did research on my own and found this diagnosis and so I diagnosed myself, as I have done so many times.

April 20, 2017 - 1:25pm
EmpowHER Guest

My middle finger on my right hand will swell up and turn purple. The purple color is usually around the nail and on the palm side of my finger. It isn't usually sore but my thumb on my right hand does the same. It has the stinging pain and itching, and turns purple around the nail, and on the palm side of my thumb. It is really sore and will often stay swollen and purple for weeks. It turns black on the palm side for an hour or a day. I have rheumatoid arthritis in my hands; I wonder if it's associated with that? My hands are always cold too.

April 20, 2016 - 11:43am
EmpowHER Guest

I have been suffering with black/purple fingers for some years, always on the palm side of my hands, starts with a sharp stinging pain then discolours, sometimes swells and is quite painful and although the discolouration goes can continue to be painful for some time, can cause it just by opening a door or carrying something it seems. Don't really know what causes it to happen and neither did my GP.

February 2, 2016 - 6:28am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Same here! Nice to know I'm not alone. Thanks for posting.

April 4, 2016 - 1:49pm
EmpowHER Guest

I don't no what is wrong with my finger. My little finger is swollen and purple right under my nail. I didn't slam it or anything. I don't no if I got bitten by something. Does anyone know what is wrong???please help me out.

October 16, 2015 - 12:48pm
EmpowHER Guest

This same exact thing has been happening to me on and off for at least 15 years. (Thought I was bit by spider the first time because of the stinging/itching of the area.) A purple bruise always appears afterward and lasts several hours. Usually no larger than a dime in circumference. These bruises occur on my hands and feet, most commonly on fingers/toes. I've mentioned to doctors during routine checkups, none of them think it's anything serious. Glad to know I'm not a lunatic, because that's how I feel when I try explaining to drs what's going on!

September 15, 2015 - 10:44am
EmpowHER Guest

This happened to me for the first time nearly 6 years ago. My middle right finger turned purple then black and was throbbing so much that it used to wake me up. After persuasion from 3 friends I made an appointment at our GP surgery to see a nurse. She called in a GP who asked for a full blood count - and 2 days later I was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia. The bruised middle finger is back again, but this time I know my blood counts are OK as I had a test last week and am still in remission.
So.... don't automatically dismiss such symptoms but get them checked. If I hadn't I wouldn't be here today!

August 16, 2015 - 4:26am
EmpowHER Guest

This article could have been written by me this morning. After getting dressed I noticed the back of my middle finger was purple! My timing was spectacular, as I was getting ready to leave for my appointment with a hand doctor! I was addressing my issue with arthritis in my left thumb joint, but when showing her my left middle finger, she was puzzled. No pain, no bite, no swelling...just purple from the first knuckle down to the base on the backside only. She chalked it up to a broken capillary. It's 12 hours later and still as purple as this morning. This kind of thing has happened to my middle finger and my ring finger on the palm side occasionly, but only at one joint and dissipates within a day. With that there is a pinch of pain, then itching. I don't take meds and my fingers are usually warm. At least I don't feel alone in this. Thank you for the article and all your comments. If anyone ever figures it out, I'd love to know.

July 14, 2015 - 7:10pm
EmpowHER Guest

This happened to me today and could not find a bite.

We just left a get together with family and I began to itch my middle finger on the side, noticed that the palm side of the middle finger was on the blue-purple side from the middle knuckle to the base, my finger began to swell. My husband was driving so he could not see what was happening as the events with the finger unfolded. Anyway, I sat rubbing the finger as we drove home and there was some numbness involved with this.

At this time the finger from the knuckle to the base is black and blue but sure this will go away with time.

It seems a blood vessell may have burst inside, it felt like a bite, there was a bit of pain. I will live@

June 7, 2015 - 9:39pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.