Sausage fingers/Dactylitis-Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Sausage fingers or Sausage toes are the commonly used words to describe Dactylitis. Dactylitis is the swelling or inflammation of the fingers and toes. Due to the swelling, the fingers and toes become enlarged and appear like a Sausage. So, they are called with this name.

Sausage fingers are not seen in normal people. Whenever a person has Sausage fingers, it always means that he or she is suffering from some sort of disease. There are many diseases which lead to the development of Sausage fingers like Psoriatic arthritis, Ankylosing spondylitis, etc.

We need to diagnose the diseases by taking a proper history of the person apart from the Sausage fingers. If a person suffers from Dactylitis, he or she cannot use the fingers and toes properly. These people find it very difficult to do tasks which involve the usage of fingers.

Causes of Sausage fingers/Dactylitis:

sausage fingers

There are many causes of the development of sausage digits. Let us look at some of the most common diseases leading to the development of Dactylitis.

Psoriatic arthritis:

This is a type of Arthritis that develops in people who suffer from a skin disease called Psoriasis. Psoriasis is a type fo autoimmune disorder in which your own immune system fights against your own body parts. In Psoriasis, red itchy plaques are seen on the skin.

In Psoriatic arthritis, there is swelling of joints of the hand like DIP (distal interphalangeal joint), PIP(proximal interphalangeal joint) and MCP (metacarpophalangeal joint). In addition to swelling of the finger joints, there is swelling of the whole finger like a sausage. This leads to Sausage fingers formation.

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Ankylosing spondylitis:

This is also an autoimmune disorder. In this condition, there is swelling or inflammation of joints of the spine or the vertebral column. In addition to the spinal joints, sometimes joints of the hands are also affected. These people also have Dactylitis or Sausage fingers.

Reiter’s syndrome:

Reiter’s syndrome is caused by infection of a bacteria called Chlamydia Trachomatis. It is also known with the name Reactive arthritis. In this condition, there are many symptoms like conjunctivitis, urethritis, and arthritis. These people also have Sausage fingers and sausage toes.

Leprosy:

Leprosy is a microbial disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. People suffering from this disease have many sores on the skin and also damage of the nerves supplying the skin. Leprosy can also affect the fingers of the persons and make them appear like Sausage fingers.

Tuberculosis:

Tuberculosis is a respiratory disorder or lung disease. It is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In Tuberculosis or TB, there are many symptoms like a cough, hemoptysis or coughing up of blood, fever, night sweats, weight loss, etc. There is also the development of Dactylitis in some people with tuberculosis.

Sickle cell anemia:

Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary disorder that you inherit from your parents. In this disorder, the red blood cells are abnormally shaped like a sickle. They obstruct the blood vessels and diminish the blood supply to the organs.

People suffering from this disorder have many symptoms like difficulty breathing, dizziness, cold extremities or limbs and damage of many organs due to reduced blood flow. They can also develop Sausage fingers or dactylitis.

Sarcoidosis:

This is a type of inflammatory disorder. In this condition, there is inflammation or swelling of various body parts and the deposition of the inflammatory cells called granulomas in various body parts like lungs and kidneys.

As Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disorder, there can be swelling of the fingers and toes too. This gives rise to Sausage fingers appearance.

Other conditions which lead to Sausage fingers:
  • Juvenile spondyloarthropathy
  • Enteropathic arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Syphilis
  • Gonococcal arthritis

Symptoms of Sausage fingers:

Swelling of the joints:

Sausage fingers or digits are mostly caused by the various type of arthritis. So, there is swelling, redness, and stiffness of the affected joints. Different types of arthritis involve different joints. Some of them involve the hand’s joints, some involve feet joints, some involve spinal joints, etc.

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Pain in the joints and fingers:

Sausage fingers or Dactylitis is the swelling of the fingers of the hands and also toes. Due to swelling, there is severe pain in the fingers and toes. If the pain is very severe, the person may not be able to use his fingers and toes at all.

Fever:

Some of the disorders associated with Sausage fingers or Dactylitis are caused by microbial infections or due to connective tissue disorders. They can be associated with fever too.

Tenderness:

There is severe swelling of fingers in Sausage fingers. These fingers are painful too. If any person tries to press or touch the fingers afflicted with dactylitis, there is severe pain. This is called tenderness.

Types of Dactylitis:

There are three main types of Dactylitis. Let us look at them.

Sickle cell Dactylitis:

This type of Dactylitis is mainly seen in people suffering from Sickle cell anemia, a disorder in which red blood cells are sickle-shaped. This is generally seen in infants less than 1 year of age.

Tuberculous Dactylitis:

In this type of Sausage fingers, there is involvement of both the fingers of the hand and also the toes. This is more painful than the other variants of Sausage fingers or Dactylitis.

Blistering distal Dactylitis:

This type of Dactylitis is associated with the formation of blisters on the fingers and toes along with the development of Sausage fingers. This is seen in kids less than 5 years of age. It is also very painful and it restricts the finger movements of the child.

Diagnosis of Sausage fingers or Dactylitis:

Do you know how the reasons for causation of Sausage fingers are diagnosed? Well, it all starts with the history and physical examination.

At first, your clinician takes a detailed history of your problem. He asks you about symptoms related to various organs like a cough, weight loss, skin rashes, pain, etc. Then based on your symptoms, he will order further investigations to diagnose the disease.

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Your physician might order you to get radiological tests or antibody tests depending on what condition he suspects. Then based on the results of the history, physical exam and lab findings, he will diagnose the disease-causing Sausage fingers.

Treatment of Sausage fingers:

The treatment of Sausage fingers is mainly based on the underlying cause. If you have tuberculosis, you will be given antitubercular therapy. If you have leprosy, you will give drugs to kill leprosy bacteria.

Let us look at some of the most common treatments suggested for all the people suffering from Dactylitis.

Analgesics:

As we all discussed already, Sausage fingers are extremely painful. They are also tender to touch. So, you will need to take analgesics to reduce the pain. You can take over the counter analgesics or NSAIDS like ibuprofen, aceclofenac, diclofenac, etc. they also reduce the swelling apart from pain.

Cold compress:

You can take a cloth and place few ice cubes in it. Alternatively, you can place few ice cubes in a plastic bag. Then close the cloth or plastic bag and apply it to the Sausage fingers. This helps in reducing the swelling and also the pain. You can even try warm or hot compress to alleviate the swelling.

Antibiotics:

Sometimes, your Sausage fingers are caused due to microbial infections like bacteria. Your physician might prescribe you antibiotics to kill the bacteria causing your problem.

You have seen all the causes of Sausage fingers, the type of dactylitis and also the different ways to treat these sausage digits. Have you ever suffered from such a condition? What have you done to control your problem? Do share your experience with us.

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