Symptoms A-Z

Swelling of Both Hands Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand your swelling of both hands symptoms, including 9 causes and common questions.

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Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 9 Possible Swelling Of Both Hands Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. FAQs
  6. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  7. Statistics
  8. References

Swelling Of Both Hands Symptoms

Your hands are essential to your normal functioning in daily life and any sign of abnormality in your hands can be alarming. Swelling is the result of fluid buildup in your body’s tissues. Swelling of both hands can impair the complex and fine hand movements required for tasks like typing on a computer or using a cellphone. When the swelling is particularly severe, it can hinder the ability to carry out even the most basic tasks like holding a toothbrush or putting on clothing. While some causes of hand swelling are benign and easily treatable, hand swelling can sometimes be a warning sign of another underlying condition that requires evaluation and intervention by a medical professional.

Common characteristics of swelling of both hands

Depending on the cause, hand swelling can have varying characteristics including:

  • Sudden or gradual
  • Persistent (continuous) or intermittent (comes and goes)
  • Acute (sudden and temporary) or chronic (continuous or recurring)
  • Temporary or permanent
  • Tender or nontender

Common accompanying symptoms

Hand swelling can be associated with other symptoms including:

  • Pain
  • Cramping or soreness
  • Stretched/tight or shiny skin
  • Skin redness and/or warmth
  • Stiffness and/or reduced range of motion
  • Itchiness
  • Fever
  • Numbness and/or tingling

Swelling Of Both Hands Causes

Hand swelling, or edema, happens when fluid builds up in the tissues that make up your hands. Fluid naturally exists around all the cells that make up the body. Under normal functioning, this fluid leaks out of capillaries, the small blood vessels that supply blood and nutrients to the body, and is cleared by the lymphatic system. Fluid can build up either due to increased fluid production, decreased fluid removal by the lymphatic system, or as a result of any process that causes the capillaries to leak more than usual. The various causes of hand swelling can be either inflammatory, systemic or traumatic.

Inflammatory

Hand swelling can be caused by inflammation which is the body’s normal response to injury or infection. Sometimes the body’s immune system kicks in when it’s not supposed to which leads to autoimmune inflammatory disease.

  • Autoimmune: An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system — which usually works to protect you against diseases and infections — instead starts to attack the healthy cells that make up your body [1]. Sometimes these autoimmune diseases, like various types of arthritis, can affect the skin, joints, tendons, or muscles of the hands, leading to swelling.
  • Allergic or irritant reaction: Certain substances cause allergic reactions of the skin and exposure of the hands to these substances can lead to red, swollen, and irritated skin. Some examples of these allergens include poison ivy/oak/sumac and nickel. Similarly, irritants including certain soaps, lotions, cosmetics, and other substances can also cause hand redness, swelling, and irritation after prolonged skin contact.
  • Infectious: Skin swelling, especially if associated with pain, redness, and warmth, can signal an infection, of which there are several types [2]. Bacteria and fungus can enter through small breaks in the skin and cause cellulitis or inflammation of the skin [3]. A skin infection that isn’t cleared up can lead to an abscess which is a pocket of pus that forms as your body tries to fight the infection [4]. Sometimes a skin infection can reach deep into the hand and affect the ligaments, bones, and joints, especially when the bacteria or fungi are particularly aggressive and requires immediate medical attention.

Systemic

Some diseases or illnesses are systemic meaning they can affect multiple parts of the body.

  • Kidney dysfunction: Your kidneys play an important role in maintaining normal fluid levels in the body. If your kidneys are not working appropriately to clear excess fluid, you may notice swelling in your hands and other parts of the body. Kidney dysfunction may be a result of infection, inflammation, or chronic damage from high blood pressure or diabetes.
  • Heart dysfunction: Heart dysfunction, or heart failure, occurs when the heart is unable to appropriately pump blood into the circulatory system. When this happens, blood gets backed up in your blood vessels and the pressure that builds can encourage more fluid than normal to leak out into the body’s tissues leading to swelling, often of the hands and the feet.
  • Lymphatic dysfunction: The lymphatic system is responsible for clearing excess fluid, also called lymph, from the body’s tissues. If any component of the lymphatic system is damaged or obstructed, the buildup of lymph can be seen as swelling in multiple parts of the body, including the hands.

Traumatic

Trauma to the hands can occur in many forms, including injury to the bones, joints, ligaments, or tendons that make up the hand. The body’s normal reaction to trauma often includes swelling, redness, pain, and tenderness in the area of the injury.

  • Cold exposure: Prolonged exposure to cold can cause damage to the tissues in the hands as they freeze, which can cause swelling. The severity of the damage depends on the duration of exposure to cold and the temperature to which your skin and tissues are exposed.
  • Heat exposure: Similarly, exposure to excessive heat can cause tissue damage and swelling.
  • Injury: Injury like that sustained from a cut or blow to the hands can cause bruising and swelling. Injury may also occur from overuse or overexertion of the hand muscles, joints, or tendons leading to inflammation and swelling.

9 Possible Swelling Of Both Hands Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced swelling of both hands. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a condition which causes inflammation of the joints. In most circumstances, psoriatic arthritis presents between the ages of 30 and 50 years and occurs after the manifestation of the symptoms of psoriasis, which is a disease of the skin. Psoriatic arthritis...

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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.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), diarrhea, swollen face, hand swelling

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Rheumatoid arthritis

Arthritis is a general term for multiple conditions that cause painful inflammation and stiffness throughout the body. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic condition that is autoimmune in nature, meaning that the body's immune system which normally protects the body by att...

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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.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: finger joint stiffness, hand bump, thickened skin on the finger, swollen hands, hand injury

Urgency: Primary care doctor

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Hand bone infection (osteomyelitis)

Osteomyelitis of the hand is a bacterial or fungal infection of the hand bones, typically caused by Staph Aureus (40-50% of the time). It is difficult to diagnose as the infection can come from a break in the skin at the area or anywhere else in the body that spreads by blood.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: moderate fever, spontaneous hand pain, constant hand pain, warm and red hand swelling, painful surgical site

Symptoms that always occur with hand bone infection (osteomyelitis): spontaneous hand pain, constant hand pain

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

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.

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

Nephrotic syndrome

Nephrotic syndrome is a disorder of the kidneys that results in too much protein excreted into your urine. It is usually associated with damaged kidneys specifically damage to the kidneys' filters, called glomeruli.

Kidney damage and nephrotic syndrome primarily include albuminur...

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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.

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

Frostnip of the upper limbs

Frostnip is damage of the outermost layers of the skin caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: hand numbness, hand pain, hand redness, cold hands, cold fingers

Symptoms that always occur with frostnip of the upper limbs: cold fingers

Urgency: In-person visit

Swelling Of Both Hands Treatments and Relief

At-home treatments

If your hand swelling is persistent and/or particularly bothersome, you should be evaluated by a medical professional to determine the diagnosis and the best course of treatment. If your hand swelling is associated with irritation, infection, trauma or injury, some at-home treatments may help while you wait to be examined by a medical provider.

  • Rest: If your hand swelling is due to trauma or injury, resting and elevating the affected hand(s) can reduce the associated swelling and irritation.
  • Warm or cold compress: Applying a warm compress can help soothe redness and inflammation from an infectious process and can help warm hands exposed to prolonged cold temperature. Applying a cold compress or ice can reduce redness and irritation from inflammatory or irritating causes like exposure to allergens, irritants or heat.
  • Over-the-counter medications: NSAID pain-relievers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin can help reduce pain, swelling, and redness from injury, infection, or arthritis because they work by reducing inflammation in your body. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also help with pain and fever but is less likely to help with redness or swelling.
  • Fluid intake: If your hand swelling is due to an infectious cause, increasing your fluid intake is critical in order to stay hydrated and keep your body strong enough to fight the infection, especially if you also have a fever.

When to see a doctor

If your hand swelling is associated with the following symptoms or factors, you should seek medical attention in the coming days.

  • Persistent swelling
  • Gradually worsening swelling
  • Swelling that is spreading up the arm(s)
  • Pain that is worsening or spreading
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Redness that is worsening or spreading
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and/or fingers

When it is an emergency

You should seek immediate medical attention if your hand swelling is associated with any of the following symptoms or factors:

  • Quickly spreading or rapidly worsening redness
  • Severe, sudden, or worsening hand swelling and/or pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • High or persistent fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of urination
  • Paralysis or inability to move the hands

Prevention

Though some causes of hand swelling cannot be prevented, some routine healthy habits may reduce the risk of some causes.

  • Avoid known allergens or irritants
  • Use gentle soaps and lotions
  • Keep any cuts or injuries on the hands clean and dry
  • Avoid exposure to extreme heat or cold
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise regularly to reduce your risk of the most common causes of kidney and heart dysfunction

FAQs About Swelling Of Both Hands

Why is my range of motion limited in my hands?

Depending on the cause, hand swelling can cause a spectrum of limitations ranging from mild discomfort to complete stiffness or paralysis. The hands are made of multiple complex structures which all move in very specific ways to allow you the ability to make full use of your hands. Swelling interferes with the interaction of all the different parts of the hands which are required to work together to optimally function.

Will my hand swelling go away on its own?

It depends on the cause. Most causes of hand swelling, like those due to trauma or infection, resolve either on their own or with simple treatments like antibiotics, antifungals, anti-allergy, or anti-inflammatory medications. Some causes of hand swelling, like heart, kidney, or lymphatic dysfunction, may cause more long-lasting symptoms if not treated or prevented. Other diseases, like arthritis, can cause hand swelling that comes and goes over time.

What is the difference between frostbite and frostnip?

Frostnip and frostbite are both forms of injury to the skin and underlying tissues caused by exposure to extreme cold. Frostnip is milder and does not cause permanent skin damage and is characterized by cold and red skin. With continued exposure to the cold, your skin will become numb, pale and hard, or waxy. Frostnip can usually be treated by re-warming but frostbite requires medical attention to avoid permanent damage to the skin, tissues, muscle, and bone of the affected area.

Will my hand swelling spread?

It depends on the cause. Hand swelling due to trauma is typically confined to the area of injury or exposure. Hand swelling due to infection can spread if the infection is not treated and penetrates into the deeper tissue levels. Hand swelling due to systemic disease can also spread if more fluid continues to leak out of blood vessels, if over time the kidneys become even more dysfunctional and unable to clear the fluid, or if lymphatic obstruction worsens.

Why is my hand swelling painful?

Hand swelling associated with pain typically indicates an inflammatory or traumatic cause. Inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to infection or injury or can occur abnormally in the case of autoimmune disease. Part of the inflammatory reaction is the release of chemical substances that cause pain and swelling in the affected body part. This is why anti-inflammatory medications that dampen the inflammatory response can be used to treat pain that is associated with hand swelling.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Swelling Of Both Hands

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

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

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your swelling of both hands

Swelling Of Both Hands Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced swelling of both hands have also experienced:

  • 4% Swelling Of Both Feet
  • 4% Hand Tingling
  • 4% Fatigue

People who have experienced swelling of both hands were most often matched with:

  • 50% Angioedema
  • 25% Psoriatic Arthritis
  • 25% Rheumatoid Arthritis

People who have experienced swelling of both hands had symptoms persist for:

  • 37% Less than a day
  • 35% Less than a week
  • 13% Over a month

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Swelling Of Both Hands Symptom Checker

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References

  1. Autoimmune Diseases. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated Dec. 19, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
  2. Skin and Soft Tissue Infections. Am Fam Physician. 2015 Sep 15;92(6):online. AAFP Link
  3. Cellulitis. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated Dec. 19, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
  4. Baiu I, Melendez E. Skin Abscess. JAMA. 2018;319(13):1405. JAMA Link

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.