Finger clubbing is not a typical symptom of COPD. But clubbed fingers may be a sign of another lung condition that might happen at the same time as COPD, like lung cancer or bronchiectasis.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease marked by inflammation and damage to your airways. COPD can make it difficult to breathe. This condition is progressive, meaning it can worsen over time.

Breathing difficulties, such as coughing, shortness of breath, and increased mucus production, are all common COPD symptoms. Since finger clubbing is also sometimes a symptom of lung disease, you may wonder if enlarged, rounded fingertips could be associated with COPD as well.

Read on to learn more about finger clubbing and its possible association with lung diseases and COPD.

Clubbed fingers are not associated with COPD. However, it’s important to know the key symptoms of this progressive lung condition and how it might affect your fingers in other ways.

COPD reduces your ability to breathe air in and out of your lungs. Symptoms may start subtly and worsen over time, making it difficult to exercise, work, and perform everyday activities such as cooking and cleaning.

Some of the most common symptoms of COPD include:

  • a chronic, productive cough where you expel a lot of mucus
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath that worsens with physical activity
  • chest pain or tightness
  • frequent respiratory infections
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite and weight loss (in severe COPD)

In some cases, a significant loss of blood oxygen may cause your fingernails or fingertips to turn blue. This is called cyanosis. You also may notice a bluish tint to your lips.

Such symptoms, however, are not associated with finger clubbing.

Finger clubbing refers to changes in your fingertips, causing them to become more rounded and enlarged. In such cases, your nail beds may also become thin and brittle. Finger clubbing is also usually bilateral, meaning it affects fingers on both of your hands.

The exact cause of finger clubbing is unknown. It may happen when you have too much of certain growth factors that lead to an increased amount of fluid and tissue that can build up on the fingertips.

One 2017 study observed finger clubbing in between 7% and 52% of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a rare type of lung disease marked by scarring of lung tissue and subsequent breathing difficulties.

Other lung conditions that may cause finger clubbing include:

You may also notice clubbing with the following conditions:

When to contact a doctor

If your breathing problems suddenly worsen with COPD, you may be having a flare-up (also called an exacerbation). Call a doctor to evaluate your current treatment plan.

A severe exacerbation may warrant a visit to an emergency department. Signs of a severe COPD flare-up include difficulty catching your breath, blue- or purple-tinged skin, and rapid heart rate. These could all be signs of low body oxygen.

If you have breathing concerns and are experiencing fingertip changes such as clubbing, you may consider talking with a doctor to rule out other underlying conditions.

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Treatment for finger clubbing ultimately depends on the underlying cause. To find this out, a doctor may run a series of diagnostic tests such as blood draws, chest X-rays, and lung spirometry.

Depending on the success of treatment, your symptoms of clubbing may also improve. But more research is needed to determine whether it’s possible to completely reverse finger clubbing.

While finger clubbing isn’t typical with COPD, you can take steps to reduce your risk of the health conditions that do cause clubbing, like lung cancer. Talk with a doctor if you’re at high risk of pulmonary or vascular diseases.

Additionally, if you don’t have COPD but are at high risk or experiencing possible symptoms, it’s important to seek a doctor’s advice right away. The sooner you start treatments for COPD, the better your outlook.

Treatment options may include a combination of inhaled medications, oxygen therapy, and pulmonary rehabilitation. Such treatments will help you feel better and improve your overall quality of life by helping you stay active.

Finger clubbing is not a typical symptom of COPD. But if you experience symptoms of either condition, it’s important to see a doctor for a physical exam and other testing.

COPD primarily causes breathing difficulties that worsen over time without treatment. It may also cause exacerbations (flare-ups) where you take in little oxygen, causing symptoms such as bluish fingers and fatigue.

Finger clubbing may be due to several pulmonary, inflammatory, and vascular conditions. If you have COPD and have symptoms of finger clubbing, you may be experiencing another comorbidity (co-occurring condition) that needs a doctor’s diagnosis and treatment.