Swollen hands are a nonspecific symptom and there are a variety of possible causes. Most often, however, these are harmless and the symptoms are self-evident.

Often these are fluid accumulations in the tissue. In some cases, however, swollen hands can also be an indication of a disease.
In addition to connective tissue diseases, diseases from the rheumatic area such as osteoarthritis (wear and tear of the joints) or arthritis (inflammatory disease of the joints) are often expressed by swollen hands.



Most commonly, fluid accumulation in the connective tissue results in swollen hands. This in turn can have different causes. For example, blood backflow may be compromised, for example, by wearing a backpack on a hike.

As a result, more fluid remains in the tissue. Such water retention is also known as edema. The hands are particularly easily affected because of their sloping position or distance to the heart. A cause of a reduced blood reflux may also be a pumping weakness of the heart (heart failure), which leads accordingly to edema.

In addition to the hands, the feet and legs are usually swollen. Typical of an edema is that a dent can be pushed into the skin, which remains for a moment. Even after surgery on the hand, arm or shoulder, the return flow of blood and tissue fluid (lymph) is often reduced, resulting in a swollen hand.

As part of a pregnancy can also be pressed more water into the tissue. However, there is an increased blood volume as the cause of the edema. It is increasingly pressed water into the tissue.

  • Causes of edema
  • Edema in pregnancy


Allergies can also cause swelling of the hands. The swelling often occurs locally after an insect bite, but more rarely as a generalized reaction of the entire body to an allergen.

If you have an allergy to an insecticide, your hand may swell acutely, with itching and pain, and in very severe cases, you may even have an anaphylactic reaction with respiratory and circulatory problems. Allergen absorption via the air or food can also cause allergic swelling of the hands. Typically, the allergies can lead to so-called "wheals" of the entire skin with small, sharply defined swellings and considerable itching. Therapeutically, both locally on the skin, as well as in tablet form antiallergic drugs called antihistamines with different degrees of effectiveness can be used.

Other causes

The swelling, which can occur after an insect bite on the hand, is due to an increased permeability of the blood vessels, which also leads to the incorporation of water into the tissue.

Kidney failure can also lead to water retention due to decreased urinary excretion.

Furthermore, inflammatory diseases represent a possible cause of swollen hands. Again, there are a variety of different diseases that can cause the discomfort. If the swelling of the hands of the many small joints of the hand, one distinguishes on the one hand wear diseases called arthrosis and inflammation, which are then referred to as arthritis. Both are among the so-called rheumatic diseases.

While these usually occur on both sides, in an inflammation by bacteria usually only one hand is affected and there is a strong swelling with pain.
One speaks here of one erysipelas (Wundrose) In such a case, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible in order to prevent the destruction of tissue and bone by antibiotic treatment.

  • Lymphedema of the arms
  • Rheumatic diseases


Swollen hands can be noticeable by a feeling of pressure. Often, the swelling is also visible.

Mostly, the mobility of the hands is restricted, which leads to a corresponding impairment in everyday life.

But it can come in addition to the swelling of the entire hand and individual swollen fingers.

Depending on the severity of the swelling of the hands may also be pain.
This is particularly pronounced when infected by bacteria. Here, the hands are often also overheated and reddened. In this case one speaks of an Erysipel.
There is a particular danger if you feel unwell and feverish. It may indicate a spread of the pathogens in the body, which can lead to blood poisoning.

Other possible symptoms depend on the cause of the swollen hands. For example, in a disturbed blood backflow due to heart failure ( heart failure ) often additionally feet and legs are swollen.


A water retention in the hands initially causes no pain.

The swelling often occurs over several hours and creeping, possibly with a feeling of skin tension and an increasing severity of the arm. In the course of the pain may be caused by the restriction of movement of the wrist. In the long term, venous insufficiency can be associated with sequelae of painful skin ulcers and other complications.

If the swelling is due to an acute trauma of the hand, the accompanying pain resulting from the resulting injuries. Injury to the bones of the wrist may be accompanied by diffuse swelling and severe pain, but it is likely to be a bruise.


A typical explanation for swollen hands with itching are insect bites.

The secretion secreted by insects such as mosquitoes, wasps or bees leads to an increased permeability of the blood vessels and thus to water retention and swelling. However, an insect bite is limited in its spread, so swelling of both hands requires at least one stitch on each hand.

An exception is an allergic reaction that affects the entire body and can be life-threatening. In addition to the swelling of hands and other parts of the body as well as itching, there may be limited breathing and circulatory collapse, which is why an emergency doctor must be alerted immediately.

Another cause of swollen hands with itching is the so-called allergic contact dermatitis. It is an allergic reaction to certain substances such as latex in protective gloves or nickel in jewelry. The symptoms are triggered by contact with the respective substance and diminish, if one avoids it. A dermatologist should be consulted.

Furthermore, contact with certain plants can cause swelling of the hands with itching. In addition to stinging nettle, these include poison ivy and poison oak. Most of the time, this also forms a rash.

  • Symptoms of an allergy
  • Insect bite - first aid and emergency measures
  • Rash due to an allergy


Advanced edema of the hands can be associated with functional limitations of the muscles, joints, blood vessels and nerve structures.

The accumulation of water and the pressure on the soft tissue can cause long-term unpleasant pain, as well as damage to the muscles and nerves. The latter can be irritated and cause sensory discomfort such as tingling, running of ants and a feeling of fuzziness, in severe cases even nervous pain and complete deafness can occur.

Evidence of rheumatism

A rather rare explanation for swollen hands is rheumatism.

Here, the swelling goes back to a disease of the joints. Rheumatism includes a variety of different clinical pictures with correspondingly diverse symptoms.

A rough classification is made in wear disorders of the joints, which are referred to as osteoarthritis and inflammatory joint diseases (arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis). An important indication of the presence of rheumatism is due to the distribution pattern of the affected joints.

Certain other symptoms may indicate rheumatism in swollen hands and should be followed by a medical examination and consultation. Typical of some rheumatic diseases is a morning stiffness of the hands and fingers, which improves during the day.

Further information can be obtained by taking an X-ray and blood tests.


If one notices that the hands are swollen and therefore goes to the doctor, he will look at the hands, touch them and make a side comparison.

Important information arises from certain questions the doctor should ask: Since when are the hands swollen? When does the swelling occur? Are there triggers or things that help reduce the swelling?

Also important is the question of whether the swelling causes pain. The doctor can then give appropriate recommendations or, if necessary, further diagnostics, for example if he suspects inflammation as the cause.
A possible step in such a case would be an examination of the blood. If necessary, an x-ray image can provide information about the cause of the swollen hands.


The treatment of swollen hands depends on their cause.

If these are caused by water retention in the tissue, massages, alternating baths with cold water and various home remedies can help.
Even if it sounds like a paradox, you should drink a lot when water retention of the hands (Caution: not if a heart or kidney disease is the cause!).

Even careful stretching exercises and repeated presses of the hands can help by stimulating blood flow. Likewise, attention should be paid to a diet that is not too high in salt, as too much salt intake promotes the formation of water retention.

If the swollen hands have a serious condition such as arthritis, it may be appropriate to use various medications and possibly even inpatient treatment at a specialist rheumatology ward.

In addition to medicines, the hands are treated with various supportive measures such as physiotherapy, ergotherapy (active and passive exercise exercises of the hands) or lymph drainage.

If the doctor determines that swollen hands are due to a weakness of the heart or kidneys, it may be necessary to reduce the daily intake so as not to overload the organs.

Schüssler salts

An alternative medical measure for swollen hands is the use of Schüssler salts. These are mineral salt preparations.

A scientific benefit has not been proven. According to Stiftung Warentest, Schüssler salts are not suitable for the treatment of diseases. The intake of the preparations is harmless to health, provided that no extreme amounts are taken.

If it is suspected that the swollen hands cause serious illness, however, it is not recommended to use natural remedies such as the Schuessler salts alone. If there is no improvement or the symptoms get worse, a doctor should be consulted.

Circumstances of swollen hands

Swollen hands and swollen feet

Swollen hands are often swollen feet. Common to both is the peripheral position in relation to the middle of the body.

If swelling occurs not only on the hands but also on the feet, it may give an indication of certain causes, while others are less likely. A simple explanation would be a hike in which a backpack was worn and then swollen hands and feet.

Furthermore, heart failure often results in swelling of the feet and legs, but can also cause swelling of the hands due to the same mechanisms. It is pumped less blood back to the heart and just in the sloping body parts such as hands and feet it comes to the storage of water and thus swelling.

However, a more localized cause of swollen hands, for example, as a result of surgery or infection, is unlikely with the feet swollen at the same time.
For rheumatic diseases, swollen feet are less common than swollen hands, so this trigger is not considered.

Swollen hands and swollen face

In addition to the hands, the face is prone to swelling due to water retention. All the causes that lead to these so-called edemas on the hands can also swell the face.

This is especially possible in the morning, because due to the lying body position blood and tissue fluid can flow off worse. An elevated pillow can help prevent swelling of the face.

Some causes of the swollen hands are unlikely with a swollen face, such as a rheumatic disease. In case of extreme extreme swelling of the eyelids, however, in rare cases severe kidney disease may be present, which is why a doctor must be consulted in such cases.

Swollen hands in the morning

Swelling of the hands in the morning may be due to an unfavorable sleeping position. As a rule, it helps to move the hands and hold them up for a while, so that the dammed up water can drain off.

A swelling of the hands especially in the morning is also typical for a rheumatic disease, yet harmless causes are more common. Once or occasionally swollen hands, which swell soon after getting up are no cause for concern.

However, if the swelling occurs every morning and in addition morning stiffness of the hands is noticed, a doctor should be consulted to investigate a suspected rheumatic disease.

Swollen hands in the night

If the hands are swollen especially at night, this is rather unusual. The most common cause of swollen hands, an increased fluid accumulation in the tissue, usually improves lying down.

However, the hand and possibly both hands can swell by an unnatural sleeping posture. For example, if you lie asleep while sleeping, the blood backflow from your hand can be squeezed off and a water retention of the affected hand occurs.

The swollen hand should then swell on this cause after getting up soon. If you wake up because of your swollen and possibly aching hands, you should hold them up for a while and move through them.

Swollen hands after exercise

With a tendency to water retention, even minor sports activities can lead to edema of the arms and legs.

Again, in most cases a combination of different factors is present. The age and gender, the pumping power of the heart, as well as a venous insufficiency are the most important factors in the development of edema. Through certain sporting activities, the muscle performance of the veins can be additionally fatigued and lowered. In addition to endurance sports in general, sports with special activity of the arms such as ball sports but also skiing or cycling can quickly lead to swollen hands. At the forefront of the treatment are firstly the protection, elevation and cooling of the hands and arms.

Swollen hands after walking

The slow diffuse swelling of the wrists can often be attributed to a previous load and activity.

The increased load leads to a greater circulation of the musculature and extremities, a depletion of venous return, and possibly to a weakening of the heart muscle with a slight heart failure. All this leads to a disturbed return of the blood to the heart. Due to the stagnation of the blood, a part of the fluid can penetrate into the subcutaneous tissue and trigger doughy, wegdrückbare swelling.

Important measures include relief, elevation and cooling of the affected limb.

Swollen hands in heat

Swollen hands through water retention often arise due to a chain of several factors. Disturbed venous activity, physical activity, cardiac output, gender, time of day and age all play important roles here. If there is a tendency to water retention on the arms and legs, even small triggers can cause swelling.

Heat from high ambient temperatures or a visit to the hot tub or sauna can cause the vessels to dilate on your hands and cause a jam. Heat has a relaxing effect on the blood vessels, which slows down the return of the blood to the heart and can lead to a dangerous stoppage of blood flow in the veins. In addition to water retention can also result in thrombosis with dangerous complications.

Swollen hands after an operation

Surgery is a very common and typical cause of swelling of the hands.

This can sometimes develop postoperative complications, which can be prevented by various measures. In the context of an operation it often comes to an immobilization and bed rest for a few days at a time. The inactivity and the pressure from lying down can lead to a disturbed return transport of the blood and a venous stagnation. This can cause not only swollen hands but also thrombosis, which can cause dangerous complications such as pulmonary embolism.

Important measures to prevent such complications include early activation and mobilization, as well as thrombosis prophylaxis in the form of syringes.

Swollen hands in children

If swollen hands occur in children, this can be due to insect bites or contact with some plants such as poison ivy or poison oak. The suspicion is obvious if the children have played outside.

The skin should be examined for a rash and blisters. Mostly there is also itching. In addition, a bacterial infection (erysipelas) may be present, especially in the case of injury to the hand, which promotes the entry of germs. Usually only one hand is affected and the children are in pain. Other abnormalities are redness and overheating. It can also come in addition to fever. In such a case, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible.

A possible but rather rare explanation for swollen hands as in adults is also a rheumatic disease in children.

Swollen hands in pregnancy

In pregnancy, some remodeling of the body of the woman, which can cause, among other things, swollen hands.

For example, the amount of circulating blood is increased. This may make it easier for fluid to be forced through the blood vessel walls into the tissue. The resulting water retention is particularly evident on the feet and legs. But even swollen hands can be affected by this so-called edema.

After pregnancy, the body's remodeling processes are reversed within a few weeks, and this causes the swollen hands to disappear as well. Although this may be the most common explanation of swollen hands in pregnancy, it may of course still be a disease or an infection. A doctor should therefore be consulted especially in case of pain or pronounced swelling of the hands.

Swollen wrists

A swelling, which occurs due to a water retention, makes itself felt first on the wrists.

In the area of ​​the wrists and forearms, the tissue is softer, which is why chronic venous weakness and edema occur especially in this area. As a rule, the swelling on the wrist is not painful. Due to the extensive swelling, only the function of the wrist can be temporarily limited, and a feeling of tension can occur. Rarely, however, the swelling can be attributed to a bony or muscular injury in the wrist, where the swelling is due to a bruise. In these cases, increased pain is expected.


A general statement about how long swollen hands persist can not be made.
Depending on the cause or trigger the swelling can quickly regress. In a serious illness, however, the hands can be constantly swollen and vary without appropriate medical measures only in their intensity.

If swollen hands keep appearing or failing to go back, you should definitely see a doctor.

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