Chances are that your hands get a real workout throughout the course of the day. Whether you are a concert pianist, an office admin, or a busy parent, your hands perform many functions throughout the day. When they become sore, achy, or swollen, you are likely to take notice. There are many reasons why swelling may occur in your hands and fingers. The source of the swelling can be something as benign as a hot, humid day or as serious as kidney failure. If swollen fingers are getting you down, check out these possible causes.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system attacks your own healthy tissues. In the case of swollen fingers, your immune system is attacking the joints of your hands and fingers. This can result in pain, swelling, stiffness, and a feeling of heat. According to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, the joints most commonly affected by RA are the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet. If your physician diagnoses you with RA, you may find relief from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid medications, antirheumatic medicines, or physical therapy.
13. Fluid Retention
Fluid retention, or edema, is the accumulation of excess fluid in the body tissues. This condition can be caused by something as simple as sitting too long in one position. Indulging in too many salt-laden foods can also trigger fluid retention. Some women experience swollen hands each month prior to menses. More serious conditions that cause fluid retention include congestive heart failure, liver disease, kidney disease, and venous insufficiency. Contact your doctor if swelling is severe or involves the legs, eyes, or abdomen.
Gout refers to a condition in which painful swelling is triggered by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints. According to the Arthritis Foundation, treatment for gout may include anti-inflammatory medications, steroids, and medications that reduce the amount of uric acid in the blood. Those with gout may be able to prevent gout attacks by exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and consuming nutritious foods that reduce uric acid levels. Skim milk, whole grains, and vegetables are all healthy choices. Avoid consuming foods that are high in purines, such as red meat, shellfish, and sodas.
You may notice that your hands become swollen during a strenuous workout. According to the Mayo Clinic, this may be a result of your body diverting blood flow away from your hands and moving it towards your heart, lungs, and muscles. As a result of diverted blood flow, the vessels in your fingers may expand, leading to swelling. You may be able to prevent uncomfortable, exercise-induced hand swelling by walking with your arms bent at waist level. Periodically stretching your fingers or engaging in arm circling exercises may offer additional relief.
Consuming excessive amounts of salt can result in water retention and swelling. However, an imbalance in sodium caused by too little sodium can also cause swelling. According to eMedicine Health, hyponatremia is a condition in which the body doesn’t have the proper balance of sodium. This can be caused by diseases, medicines, or by drinking excessive amounts of water. It is important to keep well hydrated when exercising. However, it is also crucial to not go overboard. In general, it is sufficient to drink when you are thirsty and put the water bottle down when you are satisfied.
Swelling is often a sign of an injury, such as torn or sprained ligaments in your finger. A hand injury may occur when you attempt to break your fall when slipping. You may also sustain an injury through a sharp blow or by wrenching your hand while working. Athletes such as volleyball or football players may suffer injuries while participating in sports. If no bones are broken, the swelling will often be relieved by ice application, resting the affected area, and using over-the-counter pain medications.
Your fingers are susceptible to infections caused by fungal, bacterial, or viral agents. Paronychia is a bacterial infection of the area surrounding the fingernail. As your immune system rushes to fight off the infection, the area surrounding the nail can become painful, red, and swollen. Meanwhile, herpetic whitlow is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. An infection of this kind appears as small, red, pus-filled blisters that form on the finger and cause burning and tingling. A third type of finger infection, the felon, refers to a deep, painful wound on the fleshy side of the fingertip.
Lymphedema refers to the swelling that occurs when the lymphatic system becomes damaged or blocked. When this happens, your lymph nodes are unable to efficiently clear lymph (fluid containing white blood cells) from your tissues. Medline Plus lists infection, cancer, scar tissue from radiation, and the absence of lymph nodes due to surgery as causes of lymphedema. LympheDIVAs, a company started by two breast cancer survivors, offers trendy-looking compression gloves and sleeves to help treat the effects of lymphedema on the hands. Other forms of treatment include exercise, massage therapy, and medications.
6. Medication Side Effects
Some medications may cause swelling. According to Medscape, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may cause swelling due to their effects on the kidney and sodium retention. Steroids, such as prednisone, can also cause swelling resulting from their effects on water, sodium, and electrolytes within the body. Hormone replacement therapy may trigger swelling, as can certain blood pressure medications, diabetes treatments, and nerve pain medicines. Notify your doctor if you suspect swelling is related to your medications. Never discontinue a prescription medication without the advice of your physician.
5. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, your fingers may feel as though they are heavy, swollen, and ineffective. According to the NIH, carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the nerve that travels from your forearm to your palm becomes pinched at your wrist. As pressure is exerted on this nerve, you may experience numbness, tingling, and pain in your hand, wrist, or arm. You may also experience the sensation that your fingers are swollen and numb. Your doctor may recommend splinting, medications, or surgery to treat this syndrome.
4. Kidney Disease
Your kidneys function to filter your blood and clear wastes from your body. When you suffer from kidney disease, these organs may not be able to adequately remove excess waste and fluids from your body. This can result in swelling and puffiness. Other signs of kidney disease may include frequent urination, blood in the urine, muscle cramps, fatigue, and dry skin. Risk factors for kidney disease include diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, and a family history of this condition.
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder in which the body forms excess collagen that causes the skin and organ tissues to become thick and hard. According to the Scleroderma Foundation, in the early stages, those afflicted with this disease may awaken in the mornings to swollen, sausage-like fingers. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for scleroderma. Since this disease affects each person differently, treatment is focused on the symptoms and issues each individual patient experiences.
2. Sickle Cell Disease
According to the CDC, swelling of the hands and feet is one of the first symptoms of sickle cell disease. Individuals with this disease have abnormal hemoglobin molecules, known as hemoglobin S, that form a crescent shape rather than the typical spherical shape. Hemoglobin S is a stiff, inflexible type of hemoglobin that can break down and become lodged in small blood vessels. This prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching the tissues that need it and can result in organ damage. Treatment options for sickle cell disease may include antibiotics, pain medications, blood transfusions, bone marrow transplant, and experimental gene therapy.
1. Warm Temperatures
Sometimes, all it takes is warm, muggy temperatures to trigger swelling in your hands or fingers. In addition to sweating, your body may use other mechanisms to try to cool you off. For example, the blood vessels in your hands may swell in an attempt to combat the effects of a sweltering day. As your blood vessels expand, they release more heat from the surface of your skin. You can help keep your body cool by wearing light, breathable fabrics. Furthermore, staying hydrated, using a fan, and staying out of the sun on a hot day can help you cool down.