Blood clots can be serious. If you notice a bump or what may be a swollen artery or vein on your finger or elsewhere, visit a doctor for the correct diagnosis and treatment.
The fact that your blood can clot is a good thing because it can stop you from bleeding. But when abnormal blood clots form in a vein or artery, it can create problems. These clots can form anywhere in the body, including your fingers.
Continue reading to explore blood clots in the fingers, why blood clots develop, and if they should be treated.
When you cut a blood vessel, a type of blood cell called platelets race to the scene. They come together at the site of the injury to form a clot and put an end to the bleeding.
As the cut begins to heal, your body slowly dissolves the clot. This is how blood clotting, also known as coagulation, is supposed to work.
Sometimes, blood clots develop inside blood vessels where they aren’t needed. These abnormal blood clots can interfere with blood flow and potentially cause serious problems.
There are several types of blood clots:
- Thrombus (venous thrombus). This blood clot forms in a vein.
- Arterial. This clot forms in an artery.
- Superficial thrombophlebitis. This blood clot develops in a vein just under the skin.
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This abnormal clot forms in a large, deep vein, typically in an arm or leg.
- Embolus (thromboembolus). This clot breaks off and travels through blood vessels.
Clots can form in any part of the body, including the fingers and underneath the fingernails.
A blood clot can form after a trauma to the finger damages blood vessels or breaks a bone. Examples include:
- a heavy object falling on the fingers, like when you accidentally hit your finger with a hammer
- a crush injury, such as when you get your finger caught in a car door
- surgery to the hand or fingers
- wearing a ring that’s way too small
Problems with blood flow can also lead to clots. Aging can cause problems with blood flow, as can certain conditions, such as:
A weakened artery wall can create a bulge called an aneurysm, where a clot can develop. A clot from an aneurysm can break apart and send smaller clots into the bloodstream, where they can reach the fingers.
Two types of blood clots in the finger are:
- Palmar digital vein thrombosis. This blood clot forms on the palm side of the finger, usually near the middle joint.
- Subungual hematoma. This blood clot develops under the fingernail.
A blood clot in the finger is located in a vein under the skin of the finger, likely near a joint. You might notice a bump, but you may not see much more than that.
This differs from a bruise, which is closer to the surface of the skin. A bruise also quickly changes color, first darkening and then getting lighter as it heals and fades away.
If you have a cut on your finger or underneath the fingernail, normal clotting should stop the bleeding. An abnormal clot is inside the vein and can prevent blood from flowing freely.
Signs that you have a blood clot of the finger include:
- one or more firm, blue bumps on the palm side of the finger
- pain, tenderness, or warmth
- redness or other color changes to the finger
- finger that feels cold to the touch
A blood clot under the fingernail can be mildly to severely painful.
If you suspect you have a blood clot in your finger, see your doctor. They’ll be able to tell the difference between a bruise and a clot and give you recommendations for treating your injury.
A blood clot in the finger can be small and may go away without treatment. It could be a one-time issue caused by trauma to the finger. But if there’s a medical condition that’s causing abnormal clotting, you’ll want to know.
It’s worth noting that the hands have small blood vessels to begin with, so even a small clot can interfere with blood flow. That can lead to redness, swelling, pain, or even the formation of more clots.
Poor blood flow means there’s not enough oxygen to nourish nearby tissue, which can result in tissue death.
Blood clots can also break off and travel through your bloodstream and reach vital organs. This can lead to:
- pulmonary embolism, an abnormal clot that blocks the flow of blood in your lung
- heart attack
These are life-threatening medical emergencies.
Factors that can raise the risk of blood clots in general include:
- being over age 40
- being overweight
- genetic predisposition
- hormone therapy or hormonal birth control pills
- long periods of inactivity
Although some blood clots in the fingers resolve on their own without treatment, it’s still a good idea to see your doctor. This can help prevent permanent damage to your finger. It can also prevent more serious consequences of blood clots that break apart and enter the bloodstream.
A blood clot underneath your fingernail can result in the nail falling off. To prevent this and to relieve pain, your doctor can cut a tiny hole in the nail to release the pressure.
Talk to your doctor about what you can do at home to relieve pain and pressure. This may include:
- massaging the lesion
- applying hot compresses
- using compression bandages
In some cases, a blood clot can be surgically removed from the finger.
If you’re prone to developing blood clots, your doctor may prescribe a blood-thinning medication (anticoagulant). These medications can prevent more clots from forming. Any other underlying conditions that can increase the risk of clotting should also be addressed.
Seek a medical opinion if your hand or finger shows these signs and symptoms:
- the skin is split open and may need to be stitched
- there’s a lot of swelling
- you have increasing pain
- the fingernail is falling off or the base is popping out from under the skin
- you have a wound that you can’t get completely clean
- you can’t move your fingers normally
- your fingers are an abnormal color
If you have an injury to your fingers, testing may include:
- physical examination to assess your skin
- X-ray, MRI, or other imaging test to look for fractured bones and other internal damage
- ultrasound or other testing to check blood flow in arteries and veins
- artery pressure and pulse recordings
If you didn’t have an injury, your doctor will probably want to learn the cause of your blood clot. Diagnostic testing may include:
While it may not always require medical treatment, blood clots can have serious consequences. If you suspect you have a blood clot on your finger or anywhere else, see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.