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What Causes Swollen Hands?

A person with swollen hands.
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  • Written By: K. K. Lowen
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 17 April 2014
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Many people suffer from discomfort caused by swollen hands, but reasons for the problem may vary. Sometimes an injury is to blame for the swelling, but medical problems can be the culprit as well. Another common cause is edema, a type of swelling that results when small blood vessels leak fluid into the surrounding tissue.

Arthritis is a very common reason for swollen hands. The symptoms of arthritis include swelling as well as pain in the hands and joints. If a person suspects swelling caused by arthritis, seeking advice from a medical professional may be wise. A doctor can perform x-rays and tests to determine what type of arthritis it is as well as the best possible treatment options.

Swollen hands may occur as the result of a medical condition. Kidney disease or damage can cause swelling because the body cannot rid itself of excess fluids, though swollen legs are more common than swollen hands. The lymphatic system helps rid the body of fluid as well, and swelling can occur if the system becomes weakened by cancer or other health problems.

Medications used to treat certain illnesses also may result in swollen hands. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, estrogen treatments, and certain diabetes medications sometimes cause fluid to leak from the blood vessels. Calcium antagonist medications and drugs that open blood vessels may cause edema as well.

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Both activity and inactivity can cause swollen hands. Sitting in the same position for a lengthy period of time can cause mild edema. Many people also experience hand swelling after a vigorous exercise because the blood flows to the heart, lungs, and muscles, decreasing the flow of blood to the hands. Perspiration causes fluid loss and may increase swelling as well.

Another cause of swollen hands is an abnormally high or low sodium level. Eating too much salt can cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the surrounding tissue. Drinking too much water, particularly during endurance sports such as marathon running, can dilute the sodium levels and cause an electrolyte imbalance known as hyponatremia. One of the symptoms of hyponatremia is swelling, though other prominent signs, such as confusion or vomiting, may be more noticeable.

Women may have swollen hands during pregnancy or as a premenstrual symptom. Pregnant and premenstrual women retain water throughout the body. Swelling can be particularly prominent during pregnancy because the body increases the blood and fluid supply by roughly half. Feet also can swell as a result of both conditions.

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Discuss this Article

LisaLou
Post 6

I have arthritis in my hands, and know when I have been over doing it when they get really swollen.

If I have been doing any outside work such as gardening or staining the deck, I will always wake up with swollen hands in the morning.

I like to work on craft projects, and my hands will even swell if I spend too many hours at one time on any one activity.

My hands are also very stiff and sore when they are swollen like this. I try to space out my activities so they aren't so hard on my hands, but that means I feel really limited to what I enjoy doing.

sunshined
Post 5

When I was pregnant I had swollen hands and swollen feet. I had heard of several women complain of their feet and ankles swelling, but never knew anyone to have swollen hands.

My doctor said it is not as common as the feet during pregnancy, but happens quite often.

I tried to keep my feet up in the evenings to help with the swelling there, but it was hard to know what to do with swollen hands. They didn't hurt at all, but it was just harder to do things with them.

As soon as I delivered my baby, the swelling was down in a few days.

seag47
Post 4

@Oceana - Swelling hands really can be a blessing in disguise. They draw our attention to underlying circumstances that need treatment, whereas we may never have found out about them on our own.

My slightly overweight friend’s hands have always been kind of plump, but she noticed last year that they seemed bigger than usual. Also, her heart rate felt a lot faster than normal.

She went for an exam and found out that her sodium intake was way too high. Because of her salty diet, she had developed high blood pressure, which can lead to all sorts of bad health issues.

Thanks to her swollen hands, she was able to find the motivation to start on a low sodium diet and improve her health. She lost a few pounds along the way, and that helped her overall well being.

Oceana
Post 3

A couple of years after I was diagnosed with a kidney disease, my feet, ankles, and hands started to swell during the day at work. When my doctor saw this, he put me on blood pressure medication right away.

I had recently developed high blood pressure without knowing it. It is a symptom of the disease, and it has to be controlled, or it will eventually harm my kidneys.

My swollen feet and hands actually saved me. After my medication kicked in and my blood pressure went back to normal, the swelling went away, and it hasn’t returned.

lighth0se33
Post 2

I have just recently begun experiencing arthritis. My swollen hands and fingers are in lots of pain, and due to another condition I have, I cannot take arthritis medicine for relief.

If I do any sort of gardening activity that involves yanking with the hands, my finger will have shooting pains in them the next day. It’s sad, because I love gardening.

I have started wearing compression gloves to manage the pain and swelling. They really do bring the swelling down. I find that the small amount of pressure they put on my aching joints actually helps ease the pain.

orangey03
Post 1

I often get swollen hands while roller skating. I always assumed that it was because I had my hands down at my sides, so the blood got trapped in them. After reading this, I think it may be a combination of a few things.

Skating is definitely good exercise, so the blood could be going to more important places. Also, keeping my hands in one position as I skate could be causing some of the swelling.

I always found it so strange that my hands got bigger and hotter while I skated. They felt a little tingly and numb, but the rest of my body felt fine.

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