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Dactylitis, or “sausage digit” as it is often called, is a condition in which a finger or toe becomes swollen. This problem is commonly accompanied by extreme pain and is caused by a number of conditions:

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  • Tuberculosis
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Leprosy
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Chronic juvenile arthritis
  • Sarcoiditis
  • Reiter’s syndrome
  • Treponema pallidum

Dactylitis is almost always present due to a underlying health problem and diagnosis is usually done by matching it with symptoms of other illnesses. For instance, if dactylitis is present with joint pain, then it may be indicative of Reiter’s syndrome. This symptom combination could also indicate the presence of sickle cell anemia or juvenile arthritis. Whatever the disease, dactylitis can help to determine what the underlying disease is and how to treat it.

Diagnosis

In order to diagnose dactylitis, a doctor will examine the digits and collect a medical history. Depending on the other symptoms present, he or she may try to find out what it is being caused by. Most often, much diagnostic an blood testing is involved, and if conclusive, will lead to treatment. As an example, should a doctor notice that dactylitis is present alongside respiratory symptoms, they would check the patient’s lungs for the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. If the tests are positive, a course of antibiotics will be prescribed, some of which require a minimum of 9 months use.

Misdiagnosing Dactylitis

Should dactylitis be overlooked as a side effect of another, more serious illness, said illness could remain untreated and harm the patient. In the case of tuberculosis, when untreated, it can lead to meningitis and eventually, death. Although dactylitis is not considered to be dangerous on its own, if it could be caused by a contagious or harmful condition, a correct diagnosis must be made. Potentially deadly and highly virulent diseases that often co-occur with dactylitis are syphilis (treponema) and tuberculosis.