What causes swollen fingers and hands and how to treat it?

Symptom Database

Swollen fingers and hands can be a frustrating and uncomfortable condition that many people experience at some point in their lives. This swelling, also known as finger swelling or hand swelling, can be caused by a variety of factors and can range from mild to severe. Understanding the causes and finding effective remedies for swollen fingers and hands is essential for managing this condition and reducing discomfort. In this article, we will explore the common causes of swollen fingers and hands and provide valuable insights on how to treat and reduce the swelling.

Causes of Swollen Fingers

1. Injury or Trauma

One of the most common causes of swollen fingers is injury or trauma. Accidents, falls, or direct blows to the hand or fingers can lead to inflammation and swelling. This type of swelling is usually accompanied by pain, bruising, and limited mobility.

2. Inflammatory Conditions

Various inflammatory conditions can cause finger swelling. Conditions such as arthritis, gout, and tendinitis can lead to inflammation in the joints, resulting in swollen fingers. These conditions often cause additional symptoms such as joint pain, stiffness, and redness.

3. Infections

Infections can also be a culprit behind swollen fingers. Bacterial or viral infections, such as cellulitis or paronychia, can cause localized swelling and redness in the fingers. In some cases, the swelling may be accompanied by pus or discharge.

4. Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions to certain substances or medications can cause finger inflammation and swelling. Contact dermatitis, a common allergic reaction, can lead to swollen fingers when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or allergen.

5. Fluid Retention

Fluid retention, also known as edema, can cause swelling in various parts of the body, including the fingers and hands. This can be a result of hormonal changes, certain medications, or underlying medical conditions such as kidney or heart problems.

Treating Swollen Fingers and Hands

1. Rest and Elevation

If the swelling is due to an injury or trauma, it is important to rest the affected hand and elevate it above the heart level. This can help reduce swelling by allowing excess fluid to drain away from the fingers and hands.

2. Cold Compress

Applying a cold compress to the swollen fingers can help reduce inflammation and provide temporary relief. Wrap a bag of ice or a cold pack in a thin cloth and apply it to the affected area for 10-15 minutes at a time, several times a day.

3. Compression

Using compression techniques, such as wearing a compression glove or wrapping the affected fingers with an elastic bandage, can help reduce swelling. Compression helps to improve circulation and prevent fluid buildup in the fingers and hands.

4. Medications

Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can help reduce swelling and relieve pain associated with swollen fingers. However, it is important to consult a healthcare professional before taking any medication.

5. Warm Water Soaks

If the swelling is caused by an infection or allergic reaction, soaking the affected fingers in warm water can help reduce inflammation and promote healing. Add a mild antiseptic solution or Epsom salt to the warm water for added benefits.

6. Lifestyle Changes

In some cases, making certain lifestyle changes can help reduce finger swelling. Avoiding excessive salt intake, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying hydrated can all contribute to reducing fluid retention and swelling in the fingers and hands.

7. Seeking Medical Attention

If the swelling persists, worsens, or is accompanied by severe pain, it is important to seek medical attention. A healthcare professional can diagnose the underlying cause of the swelling and recommend appropriate treatment options.


Swollen fingers and hands can be caused by various factors, including injury, inflammation, infections, allergic reactions, and fluid retention. Understanding the underlying cause is crucial for effective treatment and management. By following the remedies mentioned above and seeking medical attention when necessary, individuals can reduce swelling, alleviate discomfort, and improve their overall hand and finger health.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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