Read below about swollen forearm, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your swollen forearm 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.

Swollen Forearm Symptom Checker

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Swollen Forearm Symptoms

Swelling occurs whenever the parts of the body enlarge due to an accumulation of fluid in the body tissues. Swelling can be generalized and occur throughout the body, or localized and only affect a specific part of the body, such as the forearm.

Characteristics

Localized swelling is more common, and in the case of a swollen forearm, the swelling may be difficult to ignore. Swelling in the forearm can be associated with:

Swelling in the forearm requires medical attention in part because it is an uncommon symptom [1,2].

Swollen Forearm Causes

Even though the forearm has multiple components, forearm swelling is usually a result of damage or inflammation to the muscles and bones.

The bones of the forearm include:

  • The radius: This bone starts at the elbow and connects at the wrist on the thumb side.
  • The ulna: This bone starts at the elbow and connects at the wrist on the pinkie side.

See this image for a visual representation.

The forearm contains multiple muscles that turn the forearm/hand upwards (supination) and downwards (pronation) but and also flex and extend the digits of the hand.

Trauma

Trauma-related causes of a swollen forearm may include the following [3].

  • Fracture: Anything that causes direct injury to the forearm — a car accident, a traumatic fall, a direct blow — can result in broken bones in the forearm, resulting in swelling and pain [4]. These causes may also be associated with visible deformity and bleeding depending on the severity of the trauma.
  • Sprain: A sprain is defined as a twisting or stretching of a ligament or tendon. A ligament is a band of connective tissue that connects bonetobone. A tendon is also a band of connective tissue, but it connects muscletobone. The forearm has multiple ligaments that can be sprained in activities that cause bending, twisting, sudden movement or direct impact [5].

Environmental

A bite from any insect — mosquito, spider, etc. — can cause the forearm to swell and also become itchy and painful.

Cancer

Cancers that specifically affect the bones can target the bones of the forearm. The body's lymphatic system (the system that filters excess fluid and fights infection) can become blocked, causing fluid to build up. This phenomenon is known as lymphedema and often affects the arms or legs.

5 Possible Conditions

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

  1. 1.Insect Bite on the Arm

    Insect bites are a common occurrence. Despite the discomfort they cause, most bites are harmless and will resolve on their own.

    Within a week or two.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    swollen forearm, mild forearm pain, forearm bump, forearm redness, forearm itch
    Symptoms that never occur with insect bite on the arm:
    fever, worsening forearm redness, severe forearm pain, high-pitched breathing, wheezing, racing heart beat
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.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

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  3. 3.Bruised Forearm

    A bruise is the damage of the blood vessels that return blood to the heart (the capillaries and veins), which causes pooling of the blood. This explains the blue/purple color of most bruises. Bruises of the forearm are common, often due to minor injuries.

    Bruises begin to heal within one week.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    constant forearm pain, pain in one forearm, forearm pain from an injury, forearm bruise, swelling of one forearm
    Symptoms that always occur with bruised forearm:
    forearm pain from an injury, constant forearm pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Buckle Fracture of Distal Radius

    A buckle fracture of the wrist, also known as a torus fracture, is a condition that are most common in children aged 5-10 years due to the elasticity of their bones. This fracture occurs when force is applied to the radius (one of the two bones of the forearm), causing the bone to split along the growth plate.

    3 weeks in a cast, no need for follow up.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    constant forearm pain, forearm pain from an injury, pain in one forearm, swollen forearm, wrist injury
    Symptoms that always occur with buckle fracture of distal radius:
    forearm pain from an injury, constant forearm pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Acute Forearm Bone Infection (Osteomyelitis)

    Osteomyelitis of the forearm is a bacterial or fungal infection of the bone, 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.

    Improvement during a 6-week treatment with antibiotics

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    moderate fever, spontaneous forearm pain, constant forearm pain, warm and red forearm swelling, painful surgical site
    Symptoms that always occur with acute forearm bone infection (osteomyelitis):
    spontaneous forearm pain, constant forearm pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

Swollen Forearm Treatments, Relief and Prevention

If your symptoms are due to a traumatic cause, promptly make an appointment with your physician in order to assess for serious injury. In the meantime, use the RICE method to help alleviate your symptoms.

  • Rest: Limit movement and use of the affected forearm as much as possible.
  • Ice: Put an ice pack on your forearm every 15 minutes in order to reduce swelling.
  • Compression: Protect your forearm from excessive movement by using a compression wrap or tape. Compression can also help reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Raising your forearm above your heart can also help reduce swelling.

Medical treatments

If your forearm swelling is due to trauma or malignant causes, your physician may suggest:

  • Immobilization (sling): After a traumatic injury, your physician may provide a sling to keep your forearm from moving.
  • Physical therapy or rehabilitation: Your physician may prescribe stretching exercises or a physical therapy/rehabilitation program to help you restore range of motion and strength and stability to your forearm, especially after injury.
  • Chemotherapy or radiation: If your symptoms are due to malignant disease, your physician will discuss options such as surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy with you depending on the specifics of your condition.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Swollen Forearm

  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Is your swollen area warm and red?
  • Q.Do you notice your heart beating hard, rapidly, or irregularly (also called palpitations)?
  • Q.How would you explain your forearm pain?

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

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Swollen Forearm Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced swollen forearm have also experienced:

    • 15% Swollen Upper Arm
    • 13% Swollen Wrist
    • 8% Forearm Pain
  • People who have experienced swollen forearm had symptoms persist for:

    • 36% Less Than a Week
    • 33% Less Than a Day
    • 16% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced swollen forearm were most often matched with:

    • 66% Cellulitis
    • 16% Insect Bite on the Arm
    • 16% Bruised Forearm
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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References

  1. Dalton DM, Munigangaiah S, Subramaniam T, McCabe JP. Acute Bilateral Spontaneous Forearm Compartment Syndrome. Hand Surgery. 2014;19(1):99-102. NCBI Link
  2. Fatemi A, Samadi G, Hekmatnia A, Iraj B, Saber M. A Diabetic Woman with a Swollen Forearm. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. 2012;17(9):892-893. NCBI Link
  3. Faibisoff B, Daniel RK. Management of Severe Forearm Injuries. Surgical Clinics of North America. 1981;61(2):287-301. NCBI Link
  4. Forearm Fractures in Children. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: OrthoInfo. Updated October 2014. OrthoInfo Link
  5. Forearm Muscle Strain. Winchester Hospital. Winchester Hospital Link