by EBSCO Medical Review Board


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.


Felon is caused by bacteria that has passed 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. 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 weakened immune system


Problems may be:

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


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked about any recent injury to the finger. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

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
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The risk of this problem can be lowered by:

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


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians 


Health Canada 

Public Health Agency of Canada 


Felon. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Accessed September 11, 2020.

Felon. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Accessed September 11, 2020.

Koshy JC, Bell B. Hand Infections. J Hand Surg Am. 2019 Jan;44(1):46-54.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Shawna Grubb, RN
  • Review Date: 03/2020
  • Update Date: 03/23/2021