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  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:




A felon is an infection in the fleshy part of the fingertip. It can cause a buildup of pus. This can cause pressure and stop blood flow to nearby tissue.


A felon is caused by bacteria that passes through a break in the skin. Common breaks on fingertip include a splinter, a paper cut, or needle puncture.

Risk Factors

Trauma to the fingertip is the main risk factor for a felon. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Activities that may cause a break in the skin, such as nail biting and dishwashing
  • Health problems, medicines, or social activities that cause a weak immune system


Problems may be:

  • Fingertip swelling
  • Throbbing pain
  • Redness and warmth
  • A buildup of fluid on the fingertip


The doctor will ask about symptoms, recent injury to the finger, and past health. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to diagnose a felon.

A sample of pus may be taken from the area. It will show the exact type of bacteria causing the infection. This can help guide treatment of severe infections.


Early treatment can stop the infection from spreading and causing damage. This can be done with:

  • Supportive care, such as warm saltwater soaks
  • Antibiotics to treat infection
  • Opening the skin over the area to help blood flow and allow pus to drain out

Surgery may be needed for people with severe infection who are not helped by other methods.

Infection Can Spread to the Bone.

http://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=67196719bone_infection.jpgBone InfectionNULLjpgBone InfectionNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\bone_infection.jpgNULL121NULL2007-12-263983786719_941769185190Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


The risk of a felon can be lowered by:

  • Wearing gloves when working with things that could break the skin
  • Not biting one's nails




  • Felon. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/felon.
  • Felon. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/hand-disorders/felon.
  • Koshy JC, Bell B. Hand Infections. J Hand Surg Am. 2019;44(1):46-54.


  • April Scott, NP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.