Causes of swollen hands
A person may notice their fingers or hands appearing larger than usual. The skin may look puffy or shiny, and a dent may appear when a person presses the skin.
Swelling in the hands often goes away without treatment. Making some lifestyle changes can help to reduce the frequency of swelling.
Swollen hands may occur at certain times of day or have a link to particular activities. Making a note of when swelling happens can help pinpoint the cause. It may be a good idea to keep a record of the time of day and circumstances when the hands appear swollen.
Some simple home remedies can reduce swelling in the hands. Treatment aims to encourage fluid to flow through the body, allowing the swelling to go down.
In the morning
The hands can swell overnight as fluid builds up in the tissue.
Swollen hands may be more noticeable in the morning. Lying still overnight can cause fluid to build up in the tissues of the hands, resulting in swelling.
Stretching the arms and hands at the beginning of the day can help fluid circulate. Here are some examples of simple exercises to try:
- Stretch both arms above the head, toward the ceiling, and hold the position for a few seconds.
- Hold the arms out straight in front of the body and slowly draw circles in the air with the wrists.
- Gently clench fingers into a fist and then release, repeating the movement five times or as many as is comfortable.
In hot weather
It is more common for the hands to swell in hot weather. This is because blood vessels expand to send more blood to the skin in an attempt to cool down the body. As the vessels expand, some of their fluid can move into tissue in the hands.
Running the hands and wrists under cool water should reduce the swelling. Another option is to fill a basin with cool water and immerse hands until the swelling goes down.
Avoid clothes with tight-fitting sleeves, which can cause discomfort along with the swelling. Wearing watches or jewelry on the wrists can also reduce circulation. Make sure that these are loose enough to allow fluid to flow normally to and from the hands.
The body warms up during exercise, causing blood vessels to swell as they would in hot weather. This may cause swollen hands, although the swelling usually goes away as the body cools down.
Moderate exercise is beneficial for health. Drink plenty of water before and after exercising, and wear loose clothing that will help keep the body cool.
Many women experience some swelling of the hands and feet during pregnancy. Wearing loose clothing, staying active, and raising the legs can help.
The medical term for more serious swelling is edema. Seek medical advice if the skin dimples when pressed, or if swelling causes discomfort. Swelling in the face or around the eyes can be another sign of edema.
After eating a lot of salt
A person may notice swelling in the hands after eating a rich or salty meal.
Too much salt can cause the cells to attract fluid, and this can lead to water retention and swelling. Medication for rheumatoid arthritis can also cause the body to retain salt.
Reducing the amount of salt in the diet can have health benefits. Eating too much salt in the long term can lead to high blood pressure, kidney disease, and heart attacks.
During cancer treatment
Chemotherapy drugs can cause edema.
Some forms of cancer can cause edema. Also, chemotherapy drugs can cause swelling. This may affect the feet, ankles, legs, or face, as well as the hands.
Seek medical advice if swelling accompanies any of the following symptoms:
A cancer care team will be able to give advice and help with swollen hands.
The kidneys filter waste fluid and excess water from the body. If the kidneys are not working correctly, this may not happen as it should. The fluid and water can collect in the tissues, causing swelling.
Other symptoms linked to kidney disease include blood in the urine, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
A key symptom of arthritis is swelling and stiffness in the joints. Symptoms and the affected areas can vary, depending on the type of arthritis, but the disease commonly occurs in the hands.
Joints in the fingers and wrists may look red and swollen, feel warm, or feel stiff. These symptoms can be especially noticeable early in the day.
The following symptoms commonly suggest arthritis:
- joints that are stiff for 1 hour or longer in the morning
- swelling that lasts for 3 days or longer
- swelling that occurs three or more times a month
Arthritis usually responds to lifestyle changes and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, which can treat pain and inflammation.
Stretching the wrists and arms can help prevent swelling.
Some simple home remedies can treat swelling in the hands that occurs every so often.
Warming or cooling swollen hands can provide relief. Heat can relax the muscles and help the blood to circulate. A warm shower or hot pack applied to the hands may help with symptoms.
Cold can also reduce swelling and numb any pain. Wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply it to the hands.
Take care not to put anything too hot or cold against the skin. Warm or cool the hands for no longer than 20 minutes, and allow the skin to return to the usual temperature before applying heat or cold again.
Reduce salt by limiting the amount of fast food, canned foods, and packaged foods in the diet. These products all contain high levels of salt, or sodium. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and use herbs and spices rather than salt to add flavor.
Encourage fluid to circulate by keeping active. Try not to sit still for too long, and do some exercise regularly. Stretching the wrists and arms can help reduce swelling in the hands.
Raising the hands or running them under cool water can reduce swelling quickly. While sitting, resting the hands on a table or the arms of the chair can help.
Drinking plenty of water can help maintain the right balance of chemicals and fluids in the body. It can also help with circulation and fluid retention.
If the hands regularly swell, it may result from an underlying health condition such as kidney disease or arthritis. Treatment for these conditions usually involves medication, which should also reduce the swelling.
Swelling in the hands does not typically cause long-term health issues, but it can be uncomfortable. It may also indicate an underlying health concern.
Some simple home remedies can often reduce the frequency of swelling in the hands. If these do not work, consult a healthcare provider, who can check for any underlying issues.