The Paroxysmal Purple Finger
As I write this post very gingerly due to the large blue and purple swelling at the last knuckle of my middle finger, I can attest that paroxysmal hematoma of the finger or Achenbach’s syndrome is no joke. Earlier today when opened the hatchback, I again felt the ominous burning sensation in my finger I have been experiencing 3-4x a year since my 20’s. Sure enough, when I looked down, my finger had already begun to swell and turn an unsightly bluish purple. I went inside for ice and a kiss immediately.
If you are one of the (un)lucky few, you may have a condition in which small physical insults cause the skin over finger or toe joints to suddenly burst superficial vessels. It looks scary: it hurts, burns, and swells quickly, but it is not usually a sign of a more insidious condition. The etiology (reason) for Achenbach’s syndrome remains a mystery.
The signs of redness, swelling, and warmth are typical as is the spreading discoloration directly across the joint.
Women are more likely to suffer from paroxysmal hematomas of the hand, and the condition may also be related to Raynaud’s disease and migraines, two more conditions associated with a higher incidence in women. Raynaud’s Disease (unlike Raynaud’s phenomenon, which is a sign of more serious underlying pathology) is idiopathic or of unknown origin. Raynaud’s Disease is spontaneous vasoconstriction of the tiny blood vessels in the extremities, usually fingers and toes, which causes them to blanch or turn white when a person becomes too cold.
Migraines are the result of a vascular constriction then dilation of the blood vessels around the brain, the sudden change in which causes the nauseating, one-sided pain well known to migraine sufferers. Achenbach’s syndrome, migraine and Raynaud’s Disease all share slightly irregular vessel activity.
What to do when you have a paroxysmal (sudden) hematoma (bruise) of the finger:
- Ice in 5 minute increments with at least 30 minutes in between, and remove the ice if it becomes uncomfortable. Do this in the first 24 hours.
- After the initial stage of injury, you may apply warm compresses to draw blood to the area and encourage the escaped venous blood to clear out. Warm compresses but not heat may be used for 5-10 minutes with 30 minute breaks in between. Do this after the first 24 hours.
- The joint may feel hot, swell, and be difficult to bend. If the swelling and redness has not begun to recede within the first 1-2 days, get it checked out by a medical professional.
There are other conditions resembling the purplish-blue discolorations of fingers and toes which may be ruled out by your doctor. If you or a loved one have the symptoms of Achenbach’s but your bruise does not begin to heal within 3 days or you have the bruise or a bluish discoloration in more than one finger or toe at a time, you should ask your healthcare professional for an assessment. Blood thinners and ibuprofen or other NSAID’s may be necessary for your health but cause you to bruise easily. Do not stop taking your medication without first consulting your doctor.
If you have been diagnosed with Achenbach’s syndrome by a health professional and would like to share your experience, please add to our comments section.
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~Enjoy the sunshine