A felon is a fingertip abscess deep in the palm side of the finger. Felon comes from the Old French, derived from the Latin root 'fel', literally meaning "bile" and referring to the toxic content of the abscess. A felon causes extreme pain at the fingertip, especially when pressure is applied to the fingerprint surface. The end of the finger swells, and it is warm and painful to the touch.

It is important to get treatment quickly for these small abscesses. If the bacteria pocket continues to expand, it can compress blood vessels in the finger and cut off the fingertip's circulation, causing permanent damage to the finger.

Also, an untreated felon can spread its infection to the bone within the finger. This can lead to a more serious infection, which takes much longer to cure. Like other types of infections, felons sometimes begin after the finger is punctured by a wood splinter or repeated trauma to the fingertip through repetitive typing on a keyboard.

Felons almost always need to be opened and drained by a physician before they can heal. Most clear up within days to weeks. Healing may be faster with aggressive treatment.

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