Here’s a question from a reader:
Dear Dr. Prescott: I’m a 63-year-old woman who types a good deal as part of my job. I often have small blood vessel ruptures in my fingers, usually at a joint that bends a lot on the palm side of my hand. They leave pooled blood under the skin and only cause a little pain — just enough to remind me it has happened — for a few days. Is it anything to worry about?
— Shari Hawkins, Oklahoma City
Dr. Prescott Prescribes
Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.” By that measure, I’m quite wise when it comes to this question, as I haven’t a clue.
However, Hal Scofield, M.D., a member of the Arthritis and Clinical Immunology Research Program at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, might. A master diagnostician, Scofield is OMRF’s very own “House.” Here’s what he had to say:
“Bruising can be caused by any number of minor traumas. This is particularly true as we get older and our skin thins. Paper-thin skin often leads to bruising on the hands and forearms. Still, that’s typically not on palm-side of the fingers, which is what you describe.
“When I searched the scientific literature, I did find reports of a rare condition that might fit the bill. It’s called Achenbach’s syndrome, and it’s characterized by finger bruises that seem to come on spontaneously and usually resolve in a few days. It seems to be most common in middle-aged women. In most cases, patients describe it as about as painful as a typical bruise.
“The cause isn’t clear. The condition hasn’t been found to be a sign of any hidden disease or indicative of other medical issues. This could be what you have. Regardless, though, I don’t think it’s something that should cause you great concern.
“That said, if your fingers bruise again, your best bet is to see your doctor — quickly, before the symptoms resolve. But don’t be surprised if you don’t receive a tidy answer. Sometimes, the human condition is a puzzling one.”