Clubbing of the fingers or toes

Definition

Clubbing is changes in the areas under and around the toenails and fingernails, and in the nails themselves that may occur with some disorders.

Alternative Names

Clubbing

Considerations

Common symptoms of clubbing:

  • The nail beds soften. The nails may seem to "float" instead of being firmly attached.
  • The angle that the nail makes with its cuticle increases.
  • The last part of the finger may seem large or bulging. It may also be warm and red.
  • The nail curves downward, similar to the shape of 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, such as:

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 usually has symptoms of another condition. Diagnosing that condition is based on:

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

Medical history questions may include:

  • Do you have any breathing difficulty?
  • Does clubbing affect the fingers, toes, or both?
  • Is it becoming more noticeable?
  • Is the skin ever bluish-colored?
  • What other symptoms do you have?
  • When did you first notice this?

The following tests may be done:

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

References

Murray JF, Schraufnagel DE. History and physical examinations. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2010:chap 17.


Review Date: 5/1/2011
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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