(Not so) Slight of Hand
March 20, 2011 8:53 PM   Subscribe

Cut my finger three days ago. Still can't feel the tip?

So. On Thursday I slipped with a knife and cut my right index finger fairly deep. It bled for a while (15-20 minutes) but it wasn't a very wide cut, so it eventually stopped bleeding. Now, three days later, I still don't have full feeling in the tip of my finger. It feels numb, like when you wrap something too tightly and lose feeling in that part of your body.

Should I be worried? Did I hit a nerve or something?
posted by allymusiqua to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
I spent about an hour cutting invitation paper for my sister's wedding and (because it was so hard to cut through the thick paper) lost result in my thumb tip for about a month thereafter. Never happened so long before, but it came back. I wouldn't worry until you've given the tip proper time to heal (for an average adult, 21 days).
posted by timoni at 9:04 PM on March 20, 2011

I've done that a few times (what can I say? I have terrible fine motor skills or something). Usually the feeling comes back in a month or so but there is a small patch of my thumb that is still a bit numb. Cut the nerve right in half and nicked the tendon. 90% of the sensation came back despite severing the nerve.

In the meantime you can amuse yourself at work by experimenting on exactly how numb it is.
posted by fshgrl at 9:41 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe I'm underestimating the severity of the OP's cut , but I wouldn't be too worried in this case.

At this point unless you need a tetanus shot, I would just keep the cut clean and let it heal (unless there is a worrisome change). I've had a few rat bites (deep but not wide wounds) on my fingers and face, which were deep and numb. The face bites bled for about 20 minutes and the finger bite bled for ~2 hours if I didn't constantly apply pressure. The doctor's response was to check my tetanus shot record, give me a booster, and say things should heal fine. It took a month or more, but feeling has completely returned and I don't have scars. If you damaged a nerve you may or may not eventually get feeling back, but numbness can easily accompany a wound without leaving the area permanently numb.
posted by Logic Sheep at 9:51 PM on March 20, 2011

I've been unfortunate enough to have a variety of hand injuries - including partial amputations of digits. So I'll offer my opinions from that perspective although I am also an EMT (but not your EMT).

Anything that would prompt you to post an askme question is almost always a "see a doctor" situation. I have about 90% use of my hands, but would love to have the full movement and sensation in all my fingers - I encourage you to see a doctor before its too late (although it may already be). In my case, the damage was instant and nothing could be done.

Your lack of sensation is an indicator here - and clearly you understand that. You might not be able to DO anything about what has happened, but you can do a better job of managing it if you see an MD.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:59 PM on March 20, 2011

One time I damaged the nerves in my finger tips from repeated exposure to cold (basically very mild, but repeating frostbite). It took over 6 weeks before my finger tips started to feel normal and not numb (although there was no visible damage). I didn't even notice any reduction in numbness until over 4 weeks later. Lesson being that if you damaged the nerves, it could take a long time to get back to normal.

You still might consider going to a doctor though if you're worried.
posted by Diplodocus at 10:04 PM on March 20, 2011

Cut the nerve right in half and nicked the tendon.

Note: I did go to the doctor for this because tendon injuries in your hands can take a while to get bad plus I needed stitches AND the cut was full of rust and fun things like that. He wasn't worried about the nerve, he knew right away which one I'd cut and how likely it was to be a problem. He was right when he said it would probably come back most of the way in a few weeks but that some of it would probably be numb forever. I can feel it but no pain sensations. Then he gave me a tetanus shot. Ouch.

I think that was the only time I've ever gone to the doctor for a cut but it seemed warranted.
posted by fshgrl at 10:19 PM on March 20, 2011

i learned this lesson the hard way, so take note ... whenever you do anything to your hand go IMMEDIATELY to a hand surgeon. if you're at the ER, demand to see one or go the next day. i've had nearly two years of major hand issues because of a stupid accident and no one had told me this.

go to a hand surgeon - not just a doctor. better safe than sorry here, i promise.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 10:47 PM on March 20, 2011

go to a hand surgeon - not just a doctor. better safe than sorry here, i promise.

Is there something a hand surgeon can do for a deeply cut finger that an ER doc cannot? I'm asking because I'm ignorant about what they can do.

posted by zippy at 12:46 AM on March 21, 2011

FWIW, I cut my thumb in a similar manner on a can of cat food about twenty years ago. Had no feeling on a particular patch of the thumb for about 5-10 years. Then it came back. vOv
posted by doowod at 3:01 AM on March 21, 2011

I cut my fingertip really badly and deeply and, uh, just bandaged it up. I have, six months later, a flat, visible scar that is sometimes uncomfortable and an area of lost feeling in the fingertip that I imagine is permanent. I was told by a medically knowledgeable pal that it was not bad enough to require stitches and they'd just rebandage it at the ER. Also, earlier in my life, my father cut his fingertip badly, did the same thing, has a numb patch, so I didn't worry about it so much as regret it.

I'm puzzled about the potential amputation TheBones mentions above--why would a healed cut with some nerve damage cause amputation?
posted by Frowner at 5:01 AM on March 21, 2011

Most of my right ring finger is completely numb, has been for almost 15 years after mangled my hand and wrist on glass (was trying to open an old paned window, hand went straight through). The cut was not clean and I think the bone was nicked or chipped, as well. I didn't go to the doctor and didn't get stitches. People told me the feeling would come back eventually but the nerve must have been too damaged because it hasn't. There's also a tiny raised spot on the scar that, if I touch it or bump it the right way, causes excruciating, tingling pain like the worst funny bone disaster imaginable, and it's getting worse over time. My completely non-doctor-approved diagnosis is that the damaged nerves are growing into a nerve-bundle like some kind of bizarro ingrown hair. If I'd gone to the doctor and had it stitched so it could have healed better, I might not have this problem.
posted by cilantro at 6:05 AM on March 21, 2011

My husband cut his finger on a pipe in our apartment. After it was still numb a few days later, he went to our GP who said, you'll either get feeling back within 6 months or you won't.
posted by kat518 at 6:48 AM on March 21, 2011

I once severed a nerve as part of a nasty hand injury. As the injury healed, the nerve apparently started re-connecting. For a while I'd have brief flashes of sensation as, I suppose, the severed ends touched, and then the area (half of the injured finger) would go numb again. It felt like electricity was shooting from the tip of the finger to my elbow; it was unpleasant. It happened a few times a day for a while. Eventually I started to get sensation back in the numb area and the shocks went away.

It's been about 10 years or so. Sensation isn't normal but it's a lot better than it could have been. The odd thing is that when it's cold, that half of the finger goes numb again. Nerves are funny things.
posted by galadriel at 7:10 PM on March 22, 2011

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