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Clubbing Fingers: Is It a Sign of a Medical Condition?

Clubbing fingers may be a symptom of a condition. It’s crucial to find out its cause so that it can be treated.

A person’s right hand touching the middle finger of their left hand.

Clubbing fingers isn’t a common condition but they’re definitely noticeable. A deformity of the fingers, it’s when the tips of your fingers or toes bulge and become warm or discoloured. Eventually, your nails curve and look like upside-down spoons.

The condition can happen to anyone, sometimes without any cause. Scientists and researchers have yet to understand why it happens.

If you think you have it, it’s better to get to the bottom of it because it may indicate an underlying medical condition. 

Causes of Clubbing Fingers

A doctor showing an X-ray result to an elderly patient.
Clubbing fingers may be a symptom related to diseases of the lungs, heart, or digestive system.

It’s thought to occur due to an increase in a substance called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF is usually formed when the tissues in your body are unable to get adequate oxygen. It causes your body to build more blood vessels and your fingers to change in appearance. The condition is often related to diseases involving the lungs and heart. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)’s perspective, clubbing fingers indicates a Qi and Yang energy Deficiency in the Heart and Lungs. This causes an accumulation of phlegm and blood clots within the meridian channels running along the fingers.

According to Real Health Medical Senior TCM physician Brandon Yew, a poor diet can also be responsible for clubbing fingers. Digestive functions of the Spleen and stomach can be upset if you eat a lot of cold, raw, oily, fried, fatty, starchy, and gassy foods.

“It’s best to avoid foods that are dairy-based, spicy, sugary, processed, and high in calories”, says Physician Yew. 

Diseases Linked to Clubbing Fingers 

Certain cancers may manifest with clubbing fingers, such as cancers of the food pipe, stomach, intestines, liver and lungs. It’s also seen with lymphomas and a rare cancer called mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the outer surface of some of the body’s organs. Mesothelioma is often associated with asbestos exposure.

Other diseases of the heart and lungs can also cause clubbing fingers. These include congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis, lung abscesses and other infective and inflammatory lung conditions. Conditions affecting the digestive system too, like inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease and roundworm infection, can result in the condition.

You may also be at risk of the condition if you frequently use certain medications and laxatives. Excessive consumption of alcohol can result in liver cirrhosis, which may also show up as clubbing fingers.

Treatment of Clubbing Fingers

Medicinal herbs on brown paper.
Herbal remedies that nourish the Lungs and Heart can help prevent and treat clubbing fingers.

While it’s alarming to see a deformity in your fingers, it can be treated by addressing the underlying condition.

Identify the cause

You can avoid clubbing fingers by reducing your risk of conditions that may lead to it. Ensure you lead a healthy lifestyle and prevent the over-consumption of alcohol. Stay healthy with a balanced diet, complemented with a qi-replenishing supplement such as lingzhi cracked spores.

Herbal remedies 

Strengthen your immunity and boost your health with traditional remedies. A licensed TCM practitioner can gauge the imbalances in your body and suggest the proper treatment to correct them. It’s important not to self-medicate as the treatment is customised based on your unique body constitution and the symptoms you show.

Physician Yew recommends the following herbal remedies that can nourish the Lungs and Heart to prevent clubbing fingers.

  • Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang (血府逐瘀汤): Breaks up blood clots and moves qi, restores and moves circulation in the Heart and Lungs  
  • Gua Lou Xie Bai Ban Xia Tang (瓜蒌薤白半夏汤): Disintegrates phlegm, restores and helps with qi and blood circulation to the Heart and Lungs  
  • Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang (苓桂术甘汤) and Zhen Wu Tang (真武汤): Regenerates qi and yang energies to remove body Dampness. Encourages blood circulation to the Heart and Lungs, making you feel energised 
  • Bu Yang Huan Wu Tang (补阳还五汤): Restores circulation and energy to the Heart and Lungs 

Clubbing fingers indicate that you need to pay attention to your health. Certain cancers as well as heart and lung diseases can cause clubbing fingers, so it’s a good idea to speak to a medical practitioner to get to the underlying cause.

If you want to try the TCM route, consult a qualified TCM physician, to ensure you take suitable herbs and treatments for your condition and body constitution.

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  1. StatPearls. 2022.  Nail clubbing.  [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539713/. Accessed on 11 Jan, 2023. 
  2. Clinical Methods. 1990.  Clubbing. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK366/. Accessed on 11 Jan, 2023. 
  3. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2005. Clubbing: An update on diagnosis, differential diagnosis, pathophysiology, and clinical relevance. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0190962205002495. Accessed on 11 Jan, 2023. 

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