An Overview of Dactylitis or Sausage Fingers

Dactylitis is the inflammation of the toes or fingers. The term dactylitis is derived from the Greek word daktylos, meaning finger. Dactylitis is also referred to as “sausage fingers” as the swollen finger looks like a plump sausage.

The condition can be painful, embarrassing and debilitating as one may not be able to freely move or bend the digits of his foot and hand.

The causes of Dactylitis

Several health disorders and diseases pertaining to the tissues and joints of the feet and hands are involved in causing the dactylitis condition. Generally, it is the outcomes of inflected flexor tendon sheath or blocked blood circulation. Listed here below are the causes of sausage fingers.

1. Sickle Cell Disease: Sickle cell diseases are genetically inherited blood disorders of which the most common one is sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell anemia is due to the lack of healthy red blood cells. This results in misshaped red blood cells due to insufficient oxygen supply, which in turn blocks blood circulation within the vessels. One of the effects of this condition is dactylitis.

2. Psoriatic Arthiritis (PSA): PSA, an autoimmune disease, is another common cause of dactylitis. In this chronic condition, the healthy tissues are mistakenly attacked by the immune system, resulting in skin inflammation.

3. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): RA is another autoimmune disease in which the joints are attacked by the immune system. It is an indirect cause of sausage fingers. The swelling is also observed in the ankles, knees and wrists.

4. Reactive Arthritis: Reactive Arthritis results as an effect of the infection of the genitals, urinary tract or intestines. The infection is transmitted through food or sexual contact. The causative organisms are Shigella, Yersinia, Campylobacter or Salmonella.

The Symptoms of Dactylitis

1. Inflammation: The swelling of toes and fingers can occur simultaneously or individually, depending on the causative agent. As an outcome of the inflammation, one’s ability to bend and move the affected digits may be hampered. And since blood collects in the affected region, it feels warm.

2. Pain: One feels severe pain in the toes and fingers due to the inflammation caused by dactylitis. The pain may also radiate to the adjacent digits or the palm, and the complete foot surface. This may pose difficulty in moving the affected area.

3. Tenderness: The inflamed joints may experience tenderness to touch. This may be used by the physician to diagnose the level of dactylitis. There are four levels of dactylis which are represented from zero to four. At zero level, there is no tenderness when the swollen digit is squeezed. At one, there is some tenderness; at two, the tenderness is exhibited with grimacing upon the squeezing of the digit; and at three, the affected person retracts his digit upon touching due to severe tenderness.

The Diagnosis of dactylitis

The underlying health condition leading to dactylitiss may be detected through a series of tests. Initially, the physician carries out a physical examination of the affected area, and gets to know the family and medical history of the patient through a discussion with him.

Additionally other diagnostic tests such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), x-rays, lung examination, joint fluid test or complete blood count test may be carried out.

The treatment of dactylitis

Dactylitis can be effectively treated based on the underlying cause. Upon diagnosing the health condition causing it, the doctor will prescribe an apt treatment targeting the condition. For example, if the causative agent of dactylitis is bacterial infection, he may prescribe antibiotics to fight infection. He may also suggest a pain killer and an anti-inflammatory drug. The very same treatment is also administered for dactylitis causing lesions and blisters. The fluid inside the blisters may be drained with an incision too.

Patients suffering from dactylitis can also go for home remedies to combat inflammation. For instance, they should increase their intake of clear fluids and water to help in the healing, and apply cold or hot compresses to reduce pain and inflammation.

Most cases of dactylitis can be healed with minor treatment. Patients often get relief when treated for inflammation, which may last for weeks unless the underlying cause is a severe disorder.

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