Read below about hand swelling, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your hand swelling from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Hand Swelling Symptoms

Hands are critical for daily life and hand swelling is easily noticeable. It may be more difficult to hold objects and carry out daily activities. Some causes of hand swelling will resolve on their own and are not cause for alarm. Others can progress to cause serious damage to the structures of the hand. Hand swelling may also indicate an underlying medical condition.

Symptoms that can be associated with hand swelling include:

  • Pain
  • Warmth
  • Redness
  • Purple discoloration
  • Finger weakness, tingling, or numbness
  • Swelling in other areas of the body
  • Hives

Hand Swelling Causes Overview

Masses

Rather than swelling of the entire hand, you may notice a smaller mass. Hand swellings are usually not cancerous. They can arise from any of the tissue types that are present in the hand, such as bones or tendons.

Arthritis

Many types of arthritis can cause swollen hands and fingers. If the swelling and joint inflammation progresses, using the hands can become increasingly difficult.

Medication side effect

  • Intravenous medications : Sometimes IV medications leak out into the surrounding tissue and cause hand swelling symptoms.
  • Oral medications : Some oral medications cause swelling in the hands and feet. Blood pressure medications are particularly prone to causing swelling.

Injury

  • Bites : A cut from a human or cat tooth can cause serious injury to tendons, joints, and bones of the hand. Infection is also common and will lead to pain and swelling.
  • Fracture : Breaking a bone in the hand or wrist, such as by falling onto your outstretched hand, can cause hand swelling symptoms.

Systemic conditions

  • Connective tissue disease : A disorder called scleroderma often has hand swelling as one of the first symptoms. You may also notice color changes in the hands when they are exposed to the cold.
  • Fluid overload : Generalizable swelling occurring throughout the body, or anasarca, may be particularly noticeable in the hands. Increased fluid or edema can occur during pregnancy or due to kidney or liver disease.

Hand swelling causes in children

  • Kawasaki disease : Hand swelling can be one sign of a syndrome that also involves high fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a red tongue.
  • Sickle cell disease : Swelling of the fingers and hands is a common presenting sign of sickle cell disease in young children.

Other hand swelling causes

  • Cold exposure : Some people develop swelling and hives after exposure to cold or holding a cold object.
  • Allergy : The body can overreact to an allergen such as an insect sting or food, resulting in hand swelling and hives along with other symptoms. Allergic reactions can be life-threatening in the case of anaphylaxis, where breathing and circulation are compromised.
  • Exercise : Changes in blood flow during exercise may cause the hands to swell temporarily.
  • Lymphedema : A blockage in drainage of lymphatic fluid can cause swelling in the hand and arm. This can occur due to abnormalities in lymphatic drainage present at birth or as a side effect of surgery.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Hand Swelling

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced hand swelling. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Dupuytren Disease

    Dupuytren Disease, also known as Dupuytren's contracture, is a condition that gradually causes connective tissue (fascia) under the skin of the palm to thicken and become scar-like. Although Dupuytren's isn't painful, it does restrict movement. The thickened tissue forces several fingers - usually the ring and pinky fingers - to curl in toward the palm.

    This condition is chronic, and may get worse over time, eventually requiring treatment.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    finger joint stiffness, hand bump, thickened skin on the finger, swollen hands, hand injury
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Bruised Hand

    A bruise occurs when small blood vessels break and leak their contents into the soft tissue beneath the skin, which causes the purple color of the bruise.

    1-2 weeks

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    hand injury, hand pain from an injury, pain in one hand, swelling of one hand, palm bruise
    Symptoms that always occur with bruised hand:
    hand injury, hand pain from an injury
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Angioedema

    Angioedema is a condition which can cause swelling and puffiness of the face, mouth, tongue, hand or genitals. It is often related to an allergic reaction to food, medicines or insect bites.

    With treatment, this usually resolves in a few days.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), diarrhea, swollen face, hand swelling
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  4. 4.Cellulitis

    Facial cellulitis is a skin infection that typically comes from other parts of the face like the mouth or the sinuses and needs antibiotic treatment. Symptoms can be pain, redness, warmth and swelling of the affected area.

    Dependent on severity of infection

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, chills, facial redness, swollen face, face pain
    Symptoms that always occur with cellulitis:
    facial redness, area of skin redness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Hand Swelling Checker

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  5. 5.Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that it is caused by the immune system incorrectly attacking the joints when it shouldn't.

    RA is a chronic disease which requires lifelong control.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, joint pain, muscle aches, daytime sleepiness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Psoriatic Arthritis

    Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. Some people who have psoriasis also get a form of arthritis (inflammation and swelling of joints) called psoriatic arthritis.

    This type of arthritis can be managed with treatment, and permanent damage can be prevented. However, the underlying cause (psoriasis) is currently incurable.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    shoulder pain, lower back pain, joint pain, upper back pain, hip pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Irritant Contact Dermatitis

    Contact dermatitis is a condition in which the skin becomes red, sore, or inflamed after direct contact with a substance. This condition most often affects skin of the hands, and may occur after repeated and prolonged exposure to substances such as water, detergents (soaps, bleach), solvents (such as gasoline), acids, powders, dust, and soil. The onset of the skin reaction is usually within 48 hours of coming in contact with the substance.

    1-2 days.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    rash with well-defined border, itchy rash, red or pink, rough patch of skin, painful rash, red rash
    Symptoms that always occur with irritant contact dermatitis:
    rash with well-defined border
    Symptoms that never occur with irritant contact dermatitis:
    fever, black-colored skin changes, brown-colored skin changes, blue-colored skin changes
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  8. 8.Lupus

    Lupus is a disease in which the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues by mistake. This can damage joints, skin, blood vessels and organs.

    Lupus is a chronic condition but symptoms can be managed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, anxiety, depressed mood, joint pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

    De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. If you have de Quervain's tenosynovitis, you will feel pain upon turning your wrist, grasping anything, or making a fist.

    4-6 weeks with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    hand numbness, thumb pain, hand weakness, weakness in one hand, numbness in one hand
    Symptoms that always occur with de quervain's tenosynovitis:
    thumb pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Hand Swelling Treatments and Relief

Seek immediate hand swelling treatment if:

  • You have a hand injury with tingling, numb, weak, or cold fingers.
  • You have difficulty breathing or facial swelling.
  • You have decreased ability to move one or more fingers.
  • Your hand swelling occurred after a human or cat bite.
  • You have pain and swelling after falling onto an outstretched hand.
  • You are concerned about a child who has hand swelling and has been diagnosed with sickle cell disease, or the child also has a fever.

In some cases, you should seek medical evaluation even though emergency treatment isn't necessary. Make an appointment with your medical provider if:

  • You recently started a new medication.
  • You were previously diagnosed with arthritis, sickle cell disease, or organ failure.
  • You have a persistent growth on the hand.
  • You develop open sores on the hand or fingers.
  • You are pregnant.

Your medical provider may prescribe one or more of the following hand swelling treatments, depending on the cause of the hand swelling:

  • An epinephrine pen ("Epi-Pen") to prevent dangerous allergic reactions.
  • Referral for surgical management of a hand mass.
  • Treatment for an underlying medical condition.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications.
  • A medication (diuretic) to decrease the amount of fluid in the body.

Some home treatments may help with hand swelling.

  • If the swelling occurs in response to cold, protect your hands from cold objects or take an antihistamine like Benadryl ahead of time.
  • Ice can help reduce swelling immediately after an injury.
  • Ibuprofen or other NSAIDs can help with swollen joints.

FAQs About Hand Swelling

Here are some frequently asked questions about hand swelling.

Is hand swelling during pregnancy dangerous?

Hand swelling, along with swelling of other parts of the body like the feet, often occurs as a normal part of late pregnancy. However, it can also be a sign of a condition called preeclampsia, which can be associated with dangerously high blood pressure. Make sure to tell your medical provider if you are having swelling along with other symptoms like headache and visual changes. You should also make an appointment for evaluation of swelling if high blood pressure has ever been an issue during the pregnancy.

What should I do if my hand swells after a cat bite?

Cat bites can cause significant damage and infection of the skin, joints, or bone because the teeth can pierce deeply into the hand. Swelling after a bite may indicate a developing infection, particularly if redness and pain are also present. You should seek immediate medical evaluation for antibiotic treatment. Depending on the severity of infection and tissue damage, hospitalization and even surgical management may be required.

Can hand swelling occur due to an allergy?

Hand swelling would not be the only sign of an allergic reaction, but it can occur as one of several symptoms. The most serious type of allergic reaction is anaphylaxis, which involves the whole body and can be life threatening. Seek immediate emergency evaluation if you have swelling of the face and lips, difficulty breathing, feeling faint, or gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting after exposure to an allergen such as an insect sting.

Why is only one of my hands swollen?

Several conditions can cause swelling of just one hand. Infection or injury will likely only involve one hand. An abnormality of lymphatic fluid drainage may affect only one side. In addition, there are many types of masses that will likely affect just one hand, such as a ganglion cyst. If you have been receiving an IV medication in one hand, you may notice swelling on that side.

Can medications cause hand swelling?

Yes, some medications can cause hand swelling as a side effect. In the hospital, IV medications may leak into the tissue around an IV in the hand. Fluid overload, often particularly noticeable in the hands and feet, can be caused by oral medications such as blood pressure medications, estrogen, or anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Hand Swelling

  • Q.Where is your hand area swelling?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?
  • Q.Do you have these contractures that limit the movement of your fingers? (See picture)

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our hand swelling symptom checker to find out more.

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Hand Swelling Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced hand swelling have also experienced:

    • 12% Hand Pain
    • 5% Hand Tingling
    • 3% Hand Itch
  • People who have experienced hand swelling had symptoms persist for:

    • 37% Less Than a Day
    • 35% Less Than a Week
    • 13% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced hand swelling were most often matched with:

    • 60% Angioedema
    • 30% Dupuytren Disease
    • 10% Bruised Hand
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having hand swelling

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