11 Reasons That Cause Your Fingers To Swell

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It’s hard to imagine going about your daily activities without using your fingers, especially with everything going increasingly digital with each passing day. Just like the rest of your body, your fingers too are prone to getting stressed and overworked causing them to swell. While that’s one of the causes for swollen fingers, there could be many others as well.

Here are the causes to help you understand why your fingers could be swollen and how certain lifestyle changes can provide relief. However, if your fingers swell regularly and cause severe pain, you should talk to your doctor about the symptoms immediately.

Symptoms Of Swollen Fingers

Symptoms of Swollen Fingers

Swollen fingers could be caused by a multitude of reasons either to do with your lifestyle or it could be a sign of underlying disease. Sometimes, you also might wake up with swollen fingers and realize that they’re back to normal in a few hours. Depending on the reason why your fingers are swollen, you could experience the following symptoms:

  • Discoloration of skin (redness or bluish-purple rashes)
  • Pain in the knuckles or finger joints
  • Tingling/burning sensation in the fingers
  • Numbness
  • Stiffness
  • Sensation of heat
  • Inability to move fingers

Causes Of Swollen Fingers

1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome Causes Your Fingers To Swell

Swelling of the hands or fingers is not the primary symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome but there could be chances of it happening.1 This syndrome is caused where pressure builds up on the median nerve which runs from your forearm to your hand through a small space in your wrist called the carpal tunnel. It can lead to tingling, weakness, numbness, and other problems in your hand. While medical conditions like arthritis or diabetes can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive hand movements could also be a reason. If you sleep on your hands, carpal tunnel syndrome can also lead to swollen fingers in the morning. Severe cases might require surgery but relieving your wrists from stress or wearing a wrist splint can give relieve if the syndrome is caused due to stress.

2. Lymphedema

Lymphedema causes swelling of the limbs including your fingers

Lymphedema usually occurs in people who have undergone certain types of treatment for cancer which has resulted in damage to the lymph system. One of the functions of the lymph fluid is to carry bacteria, waste, and viruses out of your body. Lymphedema occurs when lymph is not able to flow through the body the way that it should. This causes swelling of the limbs including your fingers. Other symptoms include thickening of the skin, a tight feeling in the skin, and burning sensations in the legs.2

3. Raynaud’s Disease

reasons for swollen fingers could be Raynaud's disease

One of the reasons for swollen fingers could be Raynaud’s disease. It’s a condition that causes some areas of your body like your fingers and toes to feel numb and cold in response to cold temperatures or if you are under stress. This disease is found to be more common in people who live in colder climates and is more likely to occur in women rather than men.3 Symptoms include cold sensation in the fingers and toes, color changes in the skin, and a prickly sting upon warming or stress relief.

4. Preeclampsia (Affects Pregnant Women)

swelling caused by preeclampsia can be dangerous.

While many expectant mothers experience some swelling which is normal, swelling caused by preeclampsia can be dangerous. Preeclampsia is a serious condition that usually starts after the 20th week of pregnancy due to an increase in the blood pressure. If left untreated, the condition could be fatal to the mother and the baby.  The rate of preeclampsia in the US has increased 25% in the last two decades and is a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death.4 Preeclampsia may not exhibit any symptoms but sudden weight gain and swelling, especially in the face and hands, could be a sign.

5. Overuse

stress-related swelling

In an age where our life is governed by keyboards and touchscreens, we do not realize how much stress our fingers are going through. Using fingers for a prolonged period of time doing activities like typing on the computer, messaging on your phone, or playing video games may cause your hands and fingers to swell. Swelling can also be caused by using your hands regularly for strenuous activities such as gardening, raking, or scrubbing.5 To avoid stress-related swelling, give your hands rest by taking frequent breaks and stretch your arms once in a while. Wearing a wrist splint can also help in some cases.

6. High-Sodium Diet Or Poor Diet

Swollen fingers can be because of food that you eat

A common cause for swollen fingers could simply be the food that you eat. More specifically, salty food.6 While you may not realize it, processed foods like chips, pancakes, sauces and even processed meat can have high amounts of sodium. Your body needs to balance the overall level of sodium which is why it might end up retaining more water. This excess water collects at in your hands and feet causing your fingers to swell.

7. Hot Climate (Heat Edema)

heat can cause temporary expansion of blood vessels and swelling

If you find that your hands or feet swell on a hot summer day, it could be because heat can cause temporary expansion of blood vessels. When your body is overheated, it could have trouble pumping all the blood from your hands and feet back to your heart. As a result, fluid can accumulate in your hands and feet causing them to swell.7 This condition is also known as heat edema and occurs when your body is not acclimated to the hot environment. Once your body adjusts, the symptoms should subside.

8. External Injuries

Severe injury that causes tissue damage may result in swollen fingers.

If you have ever stubbed your toe on a desk or have had your fingers caught between closing doors, you know how painful it can be. Though your fingers are quite resilient and can take a good beating if need be, sometimes a severe injury that causes tissue damage may result in swollen fingers.8 Some of these injuries could be fractures in finger bones due to physical impact, stress fractures caused by repetitive movement, or hematomas, which occurs when there is an accumulation of blood outside a blood vessel after physical injury.

9. Water Retention (Edema)

Edema Causes Your Fingers To Swell

Water retention, medically known as edema, is caused when there is a build-up of excess fluid in your body tissues which causes swelling or inflammation. It usually occurs at the extremities like arms, hands, feet, legs, and ankles. Here are two common causes for water retention.

  • Angioedema (Allergy Related Swelling): Allergic reactions can also result in water retention and swelling in different parts of the body. Angioedema is usually caused due to a histamine reaction when your body detects allergens in the system. Some common allergens include animal skin, certain types of food (nuts, shellfish, eggs etc.), insect bites, pollen, and medications.9

10. Premenstrual Syndrome

Arthritis leads to Premenstrual Syndrome

Millions of women experience premenstrual syndrome and the symptoms usually recur before every menstrual period. The syndrome causes changes in the hormonal levels which could lead to swelling of the fingers and other parts of the body. Some of the other physical symptoms include back pain, headaches, weight gain, breast tenderness and swelling, nausea, muscle/joint pain, abdominal pain, and bloating.10 If the symptoms are severe, the syndrome is also classified as premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

11. Arthritis

Arthritis leads to swelling in joints and knuckles

Finger swelling may or may not be accompanied by swollen joints. But if the swelling is only in your joints or knuckles, there’s a possibility that it could be arthritis related. Usually, the joints in your fingers swell when the fluid surrounding the joint increases. While wearing arthritis gloves could help in some cases, arthritis treatment should be done in consultation with your doctor.

  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a condition that you develop with aging because of the wear and tear of cartilage over time. Cartilage, a flexible connective tissue, acts as a cushion between bones preventing them from creating friction. Osteoarthritis can cause bony growths at the edge of joints leading to swollen, tender and red fingers.11
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: This is a form of arthritis that could occur at any age, including young children. Rheumatoid Arthritis causes joint inflammation and stiffness which usually affects your knees, hands, and feet.12 It could also cause similar symptoms in most other joints making it difficult to perform daily activities

Arthritis Causes Swollen Fingers

  • Psoriatic Arthritis: This condition is specific to people who are already suffering from psoriasis. It is an inflammatory joint disease that is caused if you have a skin condition known psoriasis. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis.13
  • Infectious Arthritis: Infectious arthritis is usually caused by a secondary infection and occurs after a previous infection. Also known as septic arthritis, it is caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. The infection usually travels through the bloodstream and spreads to various joints including your hands causing pain and inflammation.14
  • Gout: Gout is a condition caused when uric acid that’s already present in the body forms crystals deposits around the joints causing pain and inflammation. Gouty arthritis usually occurs in the big toe as a sudden attack causing severe, shooting pain and swelling. However, it is possible that gout can attack more than one joint.15

Treatment For Swollen Fingers

Treatment for Swollen Fingers

If the causes of swollen fingers are to do with your lifestyle and physical activities, you can take precautionary measures which can either help prevent the swelling or provide relief. But if your fingers are swollen due to medical conditions, these treatments could help reduce the swelling. Here are some measures you can take to help relieve swollen fingers.

  • Watch what you eat. Try to avoid processed food filled with sodium and add more fresh vegetables and fruits to your diet.
  • Doing simple hand exercises like stretching your hands and rotating your wrists could also help in preventing swelling.
  • Make sure that you’re not putting pressure on your hands while sleeping.
  • Always ensure that you are well hydrated. Drink plenty of water as it can help flush out toxins which could be causing the swelling.
  • For severe swelling and joint pain, you could talk to your doctor about taking anti-inflammatory medicine which can help relieve the swelling.
  • Wearing compression gloves during winters can help in better blood circulation and reduce swelling.
  • Obesity could also cause water retention. Exercise regularly to improve your blood circulation and build overall health.16
  • If your work involves excessive use of your hands and fingers, take breaks to give your hands some rest.

Apart from the causes listed above, your fingers could swell because of several other medical conditions which may cause your fingers to swell as a side effect of physical or chemical imbalance in the body. If your fingers swell regularly causing deep pain or discoloration, it is recommended that you avoid self-diagnosis and talk to your doctor to find out the underlying cause.

References   [ + ]

1.What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
2.General Information About Lymphedema. National Cancer Institute.
3.What Is Raynaud’s Phenomenon. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
4.Preeclampsia and Hypertension in Pregnancy: Resource Overview. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
5.Repetitive Strain Injury. The National Health Service.
6, 7.Edema. The University of Maryland Medical Center.
8.Finger Sprains. The British Society for Surgery of the Hand.
9.Angioedema. MedlinePlus.
10.Common Symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome. American Academy of Family Physicians.
11.Osteoarthritis Symptoms. Arthritis Foundation.
12.What is Rheumatoid Arthritis. Arthritis Foundation.
13.About Psoriatic Arthritis. National Psoriasis Foundation.
14.Infectious Arthritis Symptoms. Arthritis Foundation.
15.What Is Gout. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
16.Hall, John E., Michael W. Brands, William N. Dixon, and Manis J. Smith. “Obesity-induced hypertension. Renal function and systemic hemodynamics.” Hypertension 22, no. 3 (1993): 292-299.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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