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By David R. Steinberg, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Director, Hand and Upper Extremity Fellowship, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

A felon is an infection of the soft tissue (pulp) of the fingertip, usually caused by bacteria.

A felon can lead to a pocket of pus (abscess) inside the fingertip, which creates pressure on and causes death of nearby tissues. The fingertip becomes very warm, swollen, and firm with intense throbbing pain.

The doctor makes the diagnosis of felon by examining the affected finger.


  • Drainage of pus

  • Antibiotics

If a felon is not treated promptly, the underlying bone, joint, or tendons may become infected. Treatment of felon is prompt drainage of the pus. Doctors drain the pus through a surgical incision. Antibiotics are taken by mouth.