A hard lump on a finger or on a finger joint can be contributed to by a number of factors. Some are signs of underlying diseases such as arthritis while others trace their origin to a form of injury or damage. Depending on the cause, a lump on the finger may be painful, painless, inflamed or infected.
Unless a lump on a finger is causing some form of discomfort, a sign of a disease or with cosmetic concern, it can be left without treatment. This article discusses the common causes of lumps on fingers, their symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options. Your doctor will however be in the best position to prescribe the correct treatment.
Lump on finger joint; ganglion cysts
Ganglion cysts are also known as mucous cysts or synovial cysts. They develop in form of a lump next to a tendon or a joint. The cysts are filled with a thick fluid. Some are hard while others are soft. If a ganglion cyst gets too large to the extent of pressing against a nerve under skin, it can be quite painful. Small ones are about the size of a pea while large ones can grow up to an inch in diameter.
Experts are not certain as to what causes ganglion cysts. They can however be simply defined as inflammation of the tissue that covers a joint or a tendon.
Osteoarthritis patients are at a higher risk of developing ganglion cysts. Tendency to develop these cysts has also been noted in middle aged women and in injured joints.
Lumps on a finger due to a ganglion cyst develop at the base where the finger attaches to palm. It can also appear on finger joint near nail. Large ganglion cysts are commonly seen on the palm and on the base of the knuckle of the index finger.
Typically, ganglion cysts are not painful. This is unless they press on a nerve. Note that even a pea-sized ganglion cyst can still be painful. Most of them are round or oval in shape. Large ones form noticeable lumps while smaller ones may not be noticeable unless touched.
Continued use of affected joints makes ganglion cysts grow larger.
Diagnosis and treatment
In a clinic, your doctor will perform a physical exam. MRI and X-ray images may be used to confirm that the lump isn’t a tumor. To confirm diagnosis, fill-in fluid from the cyst may be drawn with a needle and syringe. Ganglion cysts usually contain thick, clear fluid, which resembles synovial fluid.
Surgical removal is the most successful treatment option. It involves getting rid of the cyst itself and the mass that attaches it to joint or tendon. Ganglion cysts can also be drained through a process known as aspiration. It involves draining the fill-in fluid with a needle and a syringe.
It is not a good idea to drain a ganglion cyst at home. Traditionally, people used to thump or tie the cyst in home of reducing its size. This approach can end up damaging internal joint structures and is thus not encouraged.
Hard lump on finger; calluses
Calluses form hardened skin layers on the bottom of the finger. Friction is their main cause. Basically, calluses are forms of protective skin tissues. The middle finger is mostly affected, especially in people with a firm grip when writing.
Friction and pressure are the main causes of a hard lump on a finger due to calluses. Calluses keep growing in size the more repetitive pressure or friction is sustained.
The most dominant symptom of a callus is appearance of a hard lump on a finger, usually on the joint of the middle finger. The skin covering the lump will be rough and sometimes dry or flaky. Some calluses cause pain in the finger under the skin of the affected joint.
Prevention and treatment
Calluses do not require treatment. If necessary, they can be surgically removed by a doctor. Wearing protective gloves reduces friction and pressure and thus protects from calluses. You can also try padding hand tools that you often use.
Lump on finger joint and on bottom of finger; arthritis
There are two main types of arthritis that can cause lumps on finger joints and on a finger bone: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
RA is an autoimmune disease. It develops when your immune system attacks tissues that cushion your joints. Affected joints usually get inflamed, reddened and sometimes painful. Anyone can get RA. More cases are however reported in obese individuals, smokers and people from family lines with a history of the disease. Nodules or lumps caused by RA can be confused with gouty tophi. Gouty tophi are nodules caused by gout. There are more painful compared to ones due to
RA. A hard lump behind knee can also be caused by gouty tophi or rheumatoid arthritis.
Common symptoms of RA include nodules in the finger under skin, pain at finger knuckles, inability to straighten fingers, fatigue and wrist deformities.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease which affects joint cartilages. It is commonly characterized by hard bony lumps that develop at the middle finger joint. Lumps may also develop at finger joints near the nail. Other than fingers, osteoarthritis can attack the spine, knees and basically any joint. Sometimes, lump and pain in lower left abdomen can be due to osteoarthritis in lower spine.
Osteoarthritis patients experience stiffness in hands, especially in the morning. Pain is also felt on bottom of thumb. If not treated, osteoarthritis causes difficulty gripping materials.
Prevention and treatment
A number of medications are available for treatment of hand arthritis. Depending on the severity of the disease, your doctor will prescribe the best available option.
Below are some home remedies and exercises that can improve the condition:
- Try cold compressing with ice to reduce inflammation on swollen joints.
- Apply warm compress to ease joint stiffness, especially in case of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Straighten your fingers and slowly fold them into a fist. Try not to force stiff fingers more than they can withstand.
- With your hand resting on a flat surface such as a table, lift each finger individually and hold it to position for about 3 seconds. Repeat the procedure with all fingers.
- Try making the ‘okay’ sign with your hands, one after the other. Hold your hand to position for about 3 seconds and repeat the exercise several times a day.
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Hard lump on finger; tumors
Tumors can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors such as lipoma are common and can occur even on finger under skin. Lipoma is a common cause of hard lump in breast.
It is highly unlikely that a hard lump on the finger will be cancerous. Cancerous lumps can start in form of tiny bumps or cystic lumps. In most cases, malignant lumps are not painful initially. With time, they keep gaining mass and increasing in size.
Melanoma cells can also start on top of the finger on the skin. This is especially due to constant exposure to direct sunlight. Melanoma tumors are in most cases red or brown in color. They have rough tops and irregular borders. Basically, melanoma can start on any part of the skin. Although rarely, even a hard lump near anus can be a sign of cancer. It is for this reason that you are always advised to check with your doctor if you notice a lump on your skin.
When to see a doctor
Ganglion cysts do not require treatment unless they are painful or of some other form of discomfort. See your doctor if the cysts become painful or reduce your efficiency to perform tasks.
Calluses will disappear on their own once the source of friction of pressure has been eliminated. Rarely will your doctor recommend surgical removal.
Hand arthritis usually gets worse if not addressed. Check with your doctor immediately you notice symptoms of hand arthritis. While the disease cannot be cured, it can be managed with medications. Surgical removal is rarely considered unless very necessary.
See your doctor immediately if you notice a rapidly changing mole-like lump on the skin of your finger. Melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, usually starts in form of a mole-like lump on skin. Typically, moles are smooth, with regular edges and do not keep growing in size.
It is also important to report to your doctor if you notice symptoms such as lump on back side of neck, pain in armpit or in the groin region. You may be dealing with lymphoma.