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Clubbing of the fingers or toes refers to certain physical changes to your fingernails or toenails that result from an underlying medical condition. These changes can include:
These changes can develop in a matter of weeks or years, depending on the cause. They can be the result a variety of underlying medical conditions, many of which are serious. If you develop clubbing of your fingers or toes, make an appointment with your doctor.
It’s not completely understood why clubbing occurs, but certain diseases are known to activate components in the bloodstream. This activation plays a role in changing the nail bed. Nail widening that characterizes clubbing happens when the tissue under your nail plate becomes thicker. This can be triggered by a number of conditions throughout the body. For example, clubbing often results from lung diseases, such as:
Clubbing can also be a symptom of several other diseases and disorders, such as:
Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any signs of clubbing of your toes or fingers. Most of the underlying conditions that cause clubbing are serious, and early diagnosis and treatment may improve your outlook.
To treat clubbing, your doctor will need to address the underlying cause of your symptoms. Your recommended treatment plan will depend on your diagnosis. For example, your doctor may prescribe:
In rare cases, your doctor may recommend a lung transplant to treat serious lung disease.
In some cases, your toes or fingers may return to their normal shape once your underlying medical condition has been treated. Some of the conditions that cause clubbing can be cured, some are chronic but manageable, and some are harder to treat. Ask your doctor for more information about your specific condition, treatment options, and long-term outlook.
The only way to prevent clubbing is by taking steps to prevent and manage the underlying conditions that cause it. For example, you can:
If you’ve been diagnosed with a lung disease, follow your doctor’s recommended treatment plan. That may help you maintain your blood oxygen levels and prevent clubbing.
Written by: Amanda Delgado
Medically reviewed on: Oct 28, 2016: Judith Marcin, MD
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