Hand & Foot Pain : How to Remove Swelling in the Hands
7 Reasons Your Fingers Are Swollen
You step outside in the summer heat, and your fingers suddenly resemble little sausages. Or maybe you've chowed down a salty meal, and now your wedding ring is stuck on your finger. Should you freak out? Probably not. Fingers swell for a lot of reasons—many of them harmless.
But some cases of puffiness (medical name: dactylitis), especially when paired with pain, can point to serious underlying problems. Here are some of the causes of your sausage fingers, and when a call to your doctor may be appropriate.
It's really hot outside
Heat causes blood vessels to expand, which allows more heat to escape through your skin so you can keep cool, explains Tammy Olsen Utset, MD, MPH, an associate professor in the rheumatology department at the University of Chicago. As the vessels stretch, some of their fluid can leak into your soft tissues and cause puffiness.
Dr. Utset says this type of swelling tends to go away as you use your hands and continue your regular activity. But if you notice puffiness only in your hands and fingers (and not your legs), accompanied by pain or a weak grip, that could be a sign it's not just the heat and you need to consult your doctor.
You've OD'd on sodium
General Tso's chicken, lots of chips and guac, or anything fried could be the cause of your frankfurter fingers. Your body likes to keep a consistent salt-to-water balance. Taking more salt in means your body compensates by retaining more water, which explains the swelling, Dr. Utset says.
Typically, mild swelling brought on by salty foods goes away on its own within a day, though it can last longer depending on how much extra salt is in your system. If you cut back on salt and the swelling persists, see your doctor, Dr. Utset advises.
Try these no-salt flavor enhancers to help cut back on sodium intake:
Your joints are deteriorating
If it's the bony finger joints themselves that are enlarged (i.e., you can't get your rings over your knuckles), osteoarthritis may be to blame, especially if your fingers are swollen in the morning. This age-related form of arthritis is caused by the wearing down of the cushioning tissues at the end of your joints. Osteoarthritis is often, but not always, accompanied by pain and stiffness, Dr. Utset says. Many other forms of arthritis can also result in fat, achy fingers. (Are your hands always shaky? Here are 10 possible reasons why.)
You've developed carpal tunnel
When the nerve that runs from the forearm to the palm of the hand is pinched or squeezed at the wrist, that's when carpal tunnel develops, Dr. Utset explains. The resulting swelling is usually accompanied by pain, burning, tingling, or numbness in the hands and fingers—symptoms that often develop slowly over time. Research suggests carpal tunnel affects three times as many women as men. (Try these 5 stretches that ease carpal tunnel pain.)
You have a blockage in your lymphatic system
Lymphedema is a limb-swelling disease that results when lymph fluid (which carries waste, bacteria, and viruses out of the body) doesn't adequately drain. Your fingers and toes may swell, and usually your arms and legs will swell, too. Your skin may also feel tight or thicker than usual, according to a report from the National Cancer Institute. Lymphedema has been linked with surgery or radiation treatments for breast cancer. In rare cases, lymphedema can also be caused by the abnormal growth of your lymph system.
You have Raynaud's disease
Raynaud's is a narrowing of your arteries, often caused by cold weather or stress. That narrowing limits blood circulation, according to a report from theNew England Journal of Medicine. Swelling—along with prickling or pain—occurs when circulation returns (as you warm up or your stress dissipates). The condition is common and more likely to occur in women than men, Dr. Utset says. If you notice your fingers or hands are bluish or pale before they swell, that's one indicator of Raynaud's.
You're experiencing pregnancy complications
Some swelling is typical for expectant moms. But swelling in the hands and face—especially if pressing your thumb into your skin leaves a noticeable indentation—can be a red flag for preeclampsia. This condition is characterized by high blood pressure, and if left untreated, it can cause serious complications for both mom and baby (as any fan ofDownton Abbeyknows), according to guidelines from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. It occurs most often in pregnant women older than 40, those carrying twins or triplets, and those who are obese, the ACOG reports.
Video: Treating Basal Thumb Joint Arthritis - Mayo Clinic
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