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November 16, 2017

By Ariadne Weinberg, Featured Columnist

Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Doctors,
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of
our Editorial Board

Swollen ankles,Imagine that you’re in a dystopian Willy the
Wonka type story. You eat the certain wrong candy and all
of a sudden you puff up. But just your fingers.

“Just my fingers? But why not the rest of me? What’s
going on?!”

Of course, no one wants to end up entirely swollen, but the
fingers alone are enough to give one pause.

The technical term for swollen fingers or toes is "dactylitis",
a swelling of the digits, according to the Dorland’s
Illustrated Medical Dictionary.

If your fingers do start to look like sausages, there is cause
to go to a doctor immediately. They will most likely
prescribe a combination of antibiotics and analgesics, but
that is case-dependent.

As you are probably aware of, eating magical candy is not
the main cause, as surreal and Wonkaian as they may look.
(Although, excess sugar can cause inflammation.)

Often, dactylitis goes along with various forms of arthritis,
a swelling of the joints. However, remember that arthritis
doesn’t automatically mean that you will have dactylitis.
Psoriatic arthritis, for example, is often correlated with
dactylitis, while rheumatoid arthritis is not.

Sausage fingers can also be associated with other diseases
or infections.

If your fingers start to appear puffy, here are some of the
most likely underlying causes.

1. Sausage Fingers from Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis has a connection with just regular
psoriasis, an auto-immune disease in which your skin
develops red patches and white scales. The disease is a
combination of joint inflammation and/or pain and this
unpleasant effect on the cutis.

Generally speaking, psoriatic arthritis is triggered by an
outside environmental factor, such as stress, trauma, or

According to a 2014 report by Kurt De Vlam from the
University Hospitals in Leuven, Belgium, the condition often
comes along with increased cardiovascular risk, as well.

Sausage Fingers and Sickle Cell Disease

When sickle cell disease and dactylis unite, there can be
some pretty unpleasant side effects: fever, pain, increase in
white blood cells.

If you are affected only by sickle cell disease, the panorama
isn’t much better. Chronic anemia as well as
cerebrovascular disease and cognitive impairment are
possibilities, as well as is inflammation in most organs.

In his 2010 report, David Rees from King’s College Hospital
NHS Foundation Trust in London confirms that the majority
of people with sickle cell disease are in Africa, unfortunately
where there is little information about the condition.


While statistically speaking sausage fingers will not occur in
the majority of tuberculosis cases, the situation can come
up. Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease that
causes lung inflammation.

In rarer cases, the bones will also become inflamed and
that is often when dactylis occurs. According to a 2015
report by Majed Beji from the Faculté de Médecine de Tunis
El-Manar in Tunisia, tuberculosis is one of the leading
causes of death worldwide. There are 8 million new cases
each year and more than one million deaths per year, cites
the World Health Organization.


Syphilis is a sexually-transmitted infection, that can be
passed on from pregnant women to their babies.

This congenital syphilis will often cause infants to get
sausage fingers and toes, caused by the inflammation in the
bone and tissue.

Syphilis can lead to more extreme effects than just swollen
fingers and toes for the little ones, according to a 2013
by Dr. E.G. Lago from the Pontifícia Universidade
Católica do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. Prematurity as well
as low birth weight and fetal and neonatal deaths are all
scary possibilities.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis typically only affects the joints
themselves so the sausage-like appearance is not common.
But in rare cases, sausage fingers can appear with this
disease as well.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes
the immune system to attack the joints. Tissue inflammation
around joints occurs, which is why those sausage fingers
may appear. As well as fingers, the disease may affect
wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles. In a 2014 study, T.T.
Glant and researchers from the Rush University Medical
Center in Chicago, Illinois found that rheumatoid arthritis
has both genetic and epigenetic (environmental) causes.


Sarcoidosis is a multisystem inflammatory disorder. Like
tuberculosis, the disease can affect the musculoskeletal
system, but this doesn’t happen too frequently.

When dactylitis or other skeletal manifestations occur, they
appear mainly as the result of a chronic version of
sarcoidosis, where multiple organs have inflammation.

When dactylitis or musculoskeletal complications occur,
they are often treated with anti-inflammatory drugs or
corticosteroids, according to a 2014 report by A. Nessrine
from the University Hospital in Fez, Morocco.

Reactive Arthritis

Another inflammatory joint disease, reactive arthritis is
sometimes induced by an asymptomatic bacterial infection
outside the joints. The good news is the disease is only
chronic in 20% of cases and is usually self-limiting.

Sausage fingers are
is a common side effect and can usually
be treated with antibiotics.

M. Brzank from the Klinik für Rheumatologie und
Klinische Immunologie in Hamburg, Germany affirms that
for chronic cases steroids, sulfasalazine, and methotrexate
must be used.

Reiter’s Syndrome

Reiter’s syndrome is a specific kind of reactive arthritis
which occurs after acute urogenital (urethritis, cervicitis) or
enterocolitis infections. The illness is a statistically common
cause for dactylitis. In 1998, B.M. Rothschild and
researchers from the Ohio Universities College of Medicine
looked at different causes of sausage fingers. Reiter’s
syndrome was found in 28% of the participants studied.


Gout is a strange condition. The disease occurs when a
dysfunctional metabolism of uric acid causes arthritis, most
commonly in the smaller bones of the feet. This often leads
to an unpleasant burning sensation.

In 2009, Dr. R. Andracco and researchers from the
Universitá di Genova in Italy found that other risk factors
occurred when dactylitis and gout went together.

They had 73 gout patients fill out questionnaires and
screened them for dactylitis. The sausage fingers were
present in 7 out of 73 (9.6%) of subjects. They noted that
when dactylitis was present in gout, longer disease
duration and a higher number of involved joints were often

Flexor Tendon Sheath Infection

We’ve talked a lot about inflammatory conditions, but
infection is frequently the cause of dactylitis, as well. An
infection of the finger flexor of the tendon sheath is often
treated with antibiotics and a surgical drainage of the
sheath with open or closed irrigation, according to a 2013
report by R.W. Draeger from the University of North
Carolina School of Medicine. To manage the condition post-
surgery, ask your doctor which antibiotics and
corticosteroids could work for you

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