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.
Purple digits can be caused a range of problems such as trauma to the finger, a snake bites, a blood clot in the finger due to high levels of cholesterol, or from a cardiac issue. Sensitivity to cold may be due to Raynaud’s disease, frostbite, certain types of anemia or an early sign of lupus.
It is important to consider any issues in your medical history or medications you are taking that might cause a purple finger or toe to occur. Do not be afraid to call or see your doctor.
1) Photo of hand with Achenbach syndrome. Brown, Patrick et al. The Purple Digit: An Algorithmic Approach to Diagnosis. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2010;11(2):103-116. Medscape.com. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
2) Y. Smulders. What about this finger? Department of Internal and Cardiovascular Medicine, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, tel.: +31 (0)20-4444309, fax: +31(0)20-4444313, e-mail: ]]>email@example.com]]>.
3) Brown, Patrick et al. The Purple Digit: An Algorithmic Approach to Diagnosis. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2010;11(2):103-116. Medscape.com. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
4) Kämpfen, S. et al. A Painful Blue Thumb: A Case of Achenbach's Syndrome. Hand Surgery Unit, Department of Reconstructive Surgery, University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland. Accepted 5 July 2005, Available online 15 September 2005. DOI: 10.1016/j.ejvsextra.2005.07.004.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/499625/michele_blacksberg.html
Edited by Jody Smith