Hand Infection: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Hand infections if not diagnosed early and treated promptly can seriously affect the function of the hand. Pus formation can destroy vital tissues and produce permanent contractures.

Once you develop a infection of the hand you may have the following symptoms

  • severe throbbing pain
  • high fever
  • movement of fingers will produce excruciating pain
  • swelling and redness in the hand

If even two of the above symptoms are present then you probably have an hand infection and should immediately report to the nearest hospital.

At the hospital you
  • will be examined by a doctor and admitted to the hospital
  • pain killer injection or tablet will be given
  • your hand may be dressed
  • blood sample will be taken for investigations
  • you will be given a shot of antibiotic (drug that kills bacteria and other infection causing organisms)
  • a x ray of your hand will be taken
  • your doctor may order an ultrasound examination

X ray is done to see the involvement of bones and joints. Ultrasound is helpful to determine the presence of pus in the hand as sometimes it may not be obvious on physical examination.

If your doctor is doubtful of the presence of pus in your hand then

  • he will put you on an antibiotic regime
  • watch for a decrease in swelling and pain

Decrease in swelling and pain indicates that the antibiotic is working and now your infection is under control. Antibiotics will then continue till the pain and swelling have completely subsided. By this time you will have regained function of your hand.

If your doctor is certain that pus is present in your hand then he will advise you to get it surgically removed.

During surgery the surgeon will give an incision at the appropriate site to drain the pus. This incision will be left open. This allows further pus to drain and permits removal of dead tissue not identified at the time surgery. Once the pus is out you will have tremendous relief from pain.

A sample of that pus is sent to the pathology department for culture and sensitivity testing. This test helps to determine which organism in causing the hand infection and the most appropriate antibiotic to kill it.

After surgery you will remain in the hospital for few days during which

  • daily multiple dressing changes
  • splint is applied on the hand
  • gentle exercises of the fingers as soon as pain is tolerable
  • antibiotics according to your culture report

Gradually as the wound heals you will gain more useful function of the hand.

Organisms commonly responsible for hand infections include

  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Streptococci
  • Enterobacteria
  • Pseudomonas

Frequently Asked Questions

When can I suspect that pus has formed in my hand?

If you have the following symptoms then pus is likely to be present

  • severe pain in the hand
  • high fever
  • swelling (even mild swelling)

Can complete recovery occur after surgical removal of pus?

Yes, if pus is timely removed (before it can destroy tendons, skin and other tissue) then you can expect complete recovery. The earlier the treatment is started the lesser chances of tissue destruction.

What complications can occur?

Complications that can occur if treatment is not started timely include

  • septicemia (spread of infection in blood; a very serious condition)
  • gangrene
  • contracture

I hope the information provided was helpful. If you have any query you can ask me at the contact me page.

This page was last updated on 6th February 2009.


Other causes of hand pain...

Compartment Syndrome

Bennett Fracture

Rolando Fracture

Dupuytren Contracture

Hand Injury

Go back from Hand Infection to Hand Pain




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