Swollen fingers have several potential causes. In most pronounced cases, Dactylitis is the term used for swollen fingers. People also sometimes refer to this condition as “sausage fingers”. If you are willing to know about the potential causes of this condition, then read further and discover some of the causes of swollen fingers.
Causes Of Swollen Fingers:
Fingers might get swollen due to several causes, which might include injuries, infections, excessive heat, arthritis, or any other health condition. Swollen fingers can also occur due to the side effects of certain medications. Let us read below and know about some of the causes of swollen fingers in a precise manner.
Swollen fingers can be due to infections. Apart from the finger swelling, infections can also result in tenderness and soreness, dark or red streaks, and pus in the affected regions.(1)
More common in the case of children, infections that affect fingers are basically due to the Streptococcus bacteria. However, sometimes the causative agent could also be Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
Treating the infection with the relevant antibiotic, along with cleaning and bandaging by a doctor is generally effective in treating the condition.
One more cause for swollen fingers could be an injury. After any injury, our body sends extra blood and fluid to the affected portion of the body to provide the essential raw material required for healing. This can result in swelling, which in turn leads to a limited range of motion, throbbing, stiffness, and pain due to pressure.
Dislocated fingers, sprained, smashed, and jammed fingers are some of the common types of finger injuries, and all of these might cause swelling.
Treating these conditions involves keeping your hand elevated higher than the heart as much as you can. Wrapping or splinting the injured fingers can help by keeping them from excessive movements.
NOTE: Severe injuries do not heal with remedies and need medical attention.
Several types of arthritis can result in swelling in your joints, such as the ones in the fingers. Psoriatic arthritis can lead to the swelling of the whole finger, while osteoarthritis is more likely to cause swelling only in the finger joints. The pain in such cases can be severe and your finger can become hot and hard to move.
NSAIDs like Ibuprofen are used for treating mild cases of osteoarthritis. These NSAIDs can reduce swelling and pain in the finger. Pain and swelling due to psoriatic arthritis might require treatment with biologics.
4. Repetitive Motion Disorders:
Various repetitive motion disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, tendonitis, and ganglion cysts, are also some of the causes of swollen fingers. These disorders result from a person making the same kind of movements again and again. Symptoms of repetitive motion disorders can also be pain, loss of flexibility and strength, and numbness, along with swelling.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the nerve running from your forearm to the palm is squeezed or pinched at the wrist. This condition affects women more. It is explained that women are three times as likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than men.(2)
You can get relief from the swelling and pain by ceasing or significantly reducing the movements. Apart from this, you can use pain relievers and physical therapy for treating the condition. You should talk to your doctor about the best possible treatment for your condition.
One more cause of swollen fingers could be heat. The blood vessels in the hands dilate in hot environments. Due to this dilation, the flow of blood increases and this releases heat from the body. Apart from this, it also leads to fluid build-up and swollen fingers.
Elevating your affected hands and staying in a cooler environment could address the problem. Moreover, you can also use compression gloves to prevent the condition.
An inflammatory joint disease usually associated with the big toe is called gout. However, it can also result in swelling of fingers when crystals of uric acid start forming around the knuckles.(3)
Over-the-counter or OTC pain relievers can offer you some relief, and prescription medicines by doctors would address the systemic condition.
7. Insect Bites Or Stings:
One of the major causes of swollen fingers could be insect bites or stings.
It must be noted that swelling is a common reaction to insect bites and stings, and this can affect your fingers.(4)
OTC antihistamines, ice, and soothing lotions can offer some relief. However, you need to seek immediate medical attention if you start developing shortness of breath, as it indicates a severe reaction to the insect bite or sting.
8. Sickle Cell Anemia:
Children below 4 years of age with sickle cell anemia might experience sudden and painful finger or foot swelling.(1) Their fingers might feel warm. Other symptoms might include fever, anemia, and elevated white blood cell count.
This condition needs medical treatment. So, reach out to your doctor if you experience swollen fingers or any of the symptoms that might be due to sickle cell anemia.
Scleroderma is also a condition that might cause swollen fingers. This is an autoimmune disease that targets connective tissue. The condition can result in symptoms like finger swelling, pain, thickening of the skin, and inflammation.
Though there is no cure for scleroderma, yet, doctors might prescribe some medications for treating specific symptoms of the condition.(5) One more option for managing the condition could be physical therapy.
There are many causes of swollen fingers. One of the causes could be pregnancy. During pregnancy, the woman’s body produces up to 50% more blood and body fluids, and some of these can collect in hands and feet.(6)
Reducing caffeine and sodium intake might help. You should also exercise regularly, increase the intake of foods that are loaded with potassium, and also elevate your hands when required.
Pregnant women having concerns with swelling of fingers, hands, or feet, should speak to their doctor.
11. Raynaud’s Disease:
Raynaud’s disease could also be a cause of swollen fingers. This is a rare condition that is characterized by narrowing of arteries and this limits the circulation of blood. The causes of this condition are not understood completely, however, stress, cold temperature, injuries to hands, tissue damage, and also certain medications might be a few of the triggers of Raynaud’s disease. Raynaud’s disease is more likely to affect women than in men.
Swelling with pain, numbness, prickling, or skin color changes occurs most commonly in the toes and fingers when circulation returns (as we warm-up).
12. Blockage In Your Lymphatic System:
Lymphedema is a rare disease, rather rare limb-swelling disease that occurs when lymph fluid does not adequately drain. This might result in swelling of your fingers and toes, legs and arms too. A report from the National Cancer Institute says that your skin might also feel thicker or tighter than usual.(7)
Lymphedema is usually caused by an abnormal growth near a lymph node or vessel. This might cause fluid blockage. It is also found that the condition has been linked with surgery or radiation treatment for breast cancers.
13. Eating Excessive Salt:
Taking excessive salt can also lead to swelling in the fingers. Our body likes to have a consistent salt-to-water balance. So, when we take extra sodium or foods like chips or fried foods which are packed with sodium, it compensates by retaining more water. This in turn results in swelling.
Mild swelling that is generally caused due to salty foods goes away on its own in a day or two. However, sometimes it can last longer. Cutting down your salt intake would help you. However, it the swelling still does not go away, see your doctor.
14. Side Effect Of Hard Workout:
Sometimes during exercise, especially intense or hard workouts, your fingers, and hands might swell. This happens because the blood vessels in the body are responding to the increased energy demands on the muscles.
Our body produces heat when we exercise. Our vascular system allows more fluid to release into our fingers, toes, and hands. This is how our body cools down.
So, one more cause of swollen fingers might be a side effect of a hard workout.
15. Side Effect Of Certain Medications:
Some medications can also result in swelling in your fingers and hands. So, this could also be one of the causes of swollen fingers.
OTC pain relievers, blood pressure drugs, steroids, diabetes medicines, and birth control pills can result in puffiness as a common side effect. So, if you experience these effects because of your medications, you should consult with your doctor.
What Can You Do To Get Relief From Swollen Fingers?
You can follow these steps to get relief from swollen fingers.
- Keep your hands active by stretching and flexing your fingers regularly, squeezing a stress ball, and doing a range-of-motion exercise.
- By wearing compression gloves.
- You should also apply a towel-wrapped ice pack to your affected fingers and hands or immerse them in cold water.
Though you can follow these steps to get relief from swollen fingers, you should also keep it in mind that the treatment for swelling in your fingers depend on the underlying cause. So, if you have swollen fingers that do not reduce in a few days, you should consult with your doctor and know the best treatment option.
When To See Your Doctor?
Generally, in many cases like after an injury or any insect bite, swollen fingers are reduced when the affected area is healed properly. However, in several other cases, people must seek medical attention. You should seek immediate medical help if you experience that your swelling is extreme and sudden. You should also reach your doctor if the swelling does not go away or reduce in a few days. Some other cases of swollen fingers require medical attention; such as if the fingers or hand is tingling or numb, if the swelling is so severe that you are unable to do your daily activities, if your fingers and hands are warm and red, and if you swelling lasts longer. You should also talk to your doctor about swollen fingers if your swelling continues after treating for an infection that might be causing swollen fingers.
NOTE: Pregnant ladies must see a doctor if the swelling in their fingers occurs along with a persistent headache, pain in the lower back or abdomen, shortness of breath, nausea, or changes in vision or weight. This is because these might be signs of Preeclampsia.
Finger swelling might be due to any of the above reasons. Generally, the outlook for people having swollen fingers varies, depending on the underlying cause. However, careful and dedicated self-care, along with expert advice could help.
In most cases, a swollen finger gets better on its own. However, certain underlying conditions might require medical attention. So, you should consult with your doctor if you experience swollen fingers consistently.
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