What is clubbing?
Clubbing of the fingers or toes refers to certain physical changes
to your fingernails or toenails that result from an underlying medical
condition. These changes can include:
- widening and increased roundness of your nails
- increased angle between your cuticles and nails
- downward curving of your nails
- softening of your nail beds, which makes your nails
seem like they’re floating
- enlarging or bulging of the tip of your fingers or toes,
which may be accompanied by redness or warmth
These changes can develop in a matter of weeks or years,
depending on the cause. They can be the result a variety of underlying medical
conditions, many of which are serious. If you develop clubbing of your fingers
or toes, make an appointment with your doctor.
What causes clubbing?
It’s not completely understood why clubbing occurs, but
certain diseases are known to activate components in the bloodstream. This
a role in changing the nail bed. Nail widening that characterizes clubbing happens
when the tissue under your nail plate becomes thicker. This can be triggered by
a number of conditions throughout the body. For example, clubbing often results
from lung diseases, such as:
- lung cancer, a disease
that develops when you have abnormal lung cells that grow out of control
- cystic fibrosis, a
genetic condition that affects how salt and water are moved throughout the body
and creates thick secretions within the lungs and other organs
- pulmonary fibrosis,
a condition that occurs when your lung tissue becomes thick and scarred, often
for unknown reasons
- bronchiectasis, a
condition that occurs when your airways become widened and scarred due to
infection or other factors that prevent your lungs from expelling mucus
- asbestosis, a disease
that develops when you inhale asbestos fibers that scar your lung tissue
Clubbing can also be a symptom of several other diseases and
disorders, such as:
When should you see your doctor?
Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any signs
of clubbing of your toes or fingers. Most of the underlying conditions that cause
clubbing are serious, and early diagnosis and treatment may improve your
is clubbing treated?
To treat clubbing, your doctor will need to address the
underlying cause of your symptoms. Your recommended treatment plan will depend
on your diagnosis. For example, your doctor may prescribe:
- a combination of chemotherapy drugs, radiation therapy,
and surgery to treat cancer
- a combination of medications, oxygen therapy, pulmonary
rehabilitation, and lifestyle changes to alleviate symptoms of cystic
fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, bronchiectasis, or asbestosis
- medications or lifestyle changes to treat intestinal
- surgery to correct TOF or another heart defect
In rare cases, your doctor may recommend a lung transplant
to treat serious lung disease.
is the long-term outlook for clubbing?
In some cases, your toes or fingers may return to their
normal shape once your underlying medical condition has been treated. Some of
the conditions that cause clubbing can be cured, some are chronic but
manageable, and some are harder to treat. Ask your doctor for more information
about your specific condition, treatment options, and long-term outlook.
clubbing be prevented?
The only way to prevent clubbing is by taking steps to
prevent and manage the underlying conditions that cause it. For example, you
- reduce your risk of lung cancer by avoiding
tobacco smoke and limiting your exposure to toxins in the workplace
- lower your chances of developing bronchiectasis
by getting vaccinated against measles and whooping cough, seeking prompt
treatment for lung infections, and limiting your contact with tobacco smoke and
- prevent asbestosis by using protective equipment
when you’re working in an industry, such as construction, where you might be
exposed to asbestos
If you’ve been diagnosed with a lung disease, follow your
doctor’s recommended treatment plan. That may help you maintain your blood
oxygen levels and prevent clubbing.