Swollen fingers — also known as edema are uncomfortable and annoying, especially if you wear rings. This condition can happen anywhere on your body, but is commonly seen on your hands, arms, feet, ankles and legs.
Why does it happen, and what causes it?
Swollen fingers happen when extra fluid gets trapped in your body’s tissues. Several things can cause this, including heat, exercise, or medical conditions. While swollen hands usually aren’t anything to worry about, they can sometimes be a sign of an underlying serious illness that needs treatment.
Swollen Fingers: Exercise
Exercising is a great activity and should be done on a regular basis. It’s great for all ages, especially for senior citizens. But you should know that it may also cause swelling in your extremities, as it increases blood flow to your heart, lungs, and muscles. It can also reduce blood flow to your hands, making them cooler. Sometimes the blood vessels in your hands will counteract this by opening up, which can make your hands swell.
In addition, exercising makes your muscles produce heat. In response, your body pushes blood toward the vessels closest to your body’s surface to get rid of some of the heat. This process makes you sweat, but it may also cause your hands to swell.
In most cases, swollen hands while exercising is not anything to worry about. However, if you’re a senior citizen, it could be a sign of hyponatremia. This refers to having low levels of sodium in your blood. If you have hyponatremia, you’ll likely experience nausea and confusion as well.
Here are a few steps you can take to reduce swelling in your hands while exercising:
- Remove all your jewelry before exercising.
- Do arm circles while exercising.
- Expand your fingers and clench them into a fist repeatedly while exercising.
- Elevate your hands after exercising.
Swollen Fingers: Hot Weather
When you’re suddenly exposed to unusually hot temperatures, your body may struggle to cool itself down. Normally, your body pushes warm blood toward the surface of your skin, where it cools down by sweating. On hot and humid days, this process may not work properly. Instead, fluid might accumulate in your hands instead of evaporating through sweat.
Other symptoms of extreme heat exposure include:
- increased body temperature
- dizziness or fainting
It may take your body a few days to acclimate to hot weather. Once it does, your swelling should go away. You can also try using a fan or dehumidifier for relief.
Swollen Fingers: Too Much Salt
Your body maintains a delicate balance of salt and water that’s easy to disrupt. Your kidneys filter your blood all day long, pulling out toxins and unwanted fluid and sending them to your bladder.
Eating too much salt makes it harder for your kidneys to remove unwanted fluid. This allows fluid to build up in your system, where it may collect in certain areas, including your hands.
When fluid builds up, your heart works harder to circulate blood, which increases blood pressure. High blood pressure puts extra pressure on your kidneys and prevents them from filtering fluid.
Following a low-sodium diet can help restore the proper balance.
Lymphedema is swelling caused by a buildup of lymph fluid. This condition is most common among people who’ve had their lymph nodes removed or damaged during cancer treatment.
If you’ve had lymph nodes removed from your armpit during breast cancer treatment, you have a higher risk of developing lymphedema in your hands months or years after treatment. This is known as secondary lymphedema.
You can also be born with primary lymphedema, though it’s more common to have it in your legs than your arms.
Other symptoms of lymphedema include:
- swelling and aching in the arm or hand
- a heavy feeling in the arm
- numbness in the arm or hand
- skin feels tight or taut on the arm
- jewelry seems to be too tight
- decreased ability to flex or move your arm, hand, or wrist
While there’s no cure for lymphedema, lymphatic drainage massage can help to reduce swelling and prevent fluid from building up.