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Many people suffer from discomfort caused by swollen hands, but reasons for the problem may vary. Sometimes an injury is to blame for the swelling, but medical problems can be the culprit as well. Another common cause is edema, a type of swelling that results when small blood vessels leak fluid into the surrounding tissue.
Arthritis is a very common reason for swollen hands. The symptoms of arthritis include swelling as well as pain in the hands and joints. If a person suspects swelling caused by arthritis, seeking advice from a medical professional may be wise. A doctor can perform x-rays and tests to determine what type of arthritis it is as well as the best possible treatment options.
Swollen hands may occur as the result of a medical condition. Kidney disease or damage can cause swelling because the body cannot rid itself of excess fluids, though swollen legs are more common than swelling in the hands. The lymphatic system helps rid the body of fluid as well, and swelling can occur if the system becomes weakened by cancer or other health problems.
Medications used to treat certain illnesses also may result in this condition. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, estrogen treatments, and certain diabetes medications sometimes cause fluid to leak from the blood vessels. Calcium antagonist medications and drugs that open blood vessels may cause edema as well.
Both activity and inactivity can cause swelling in the hands. Sitting in the same position for a lengthy period of time can cause mild edema. Many people also experience hand swelling after a vigorous exercise because the blood flows to the heart, lungs, and muscles, decreasing the flow of blood to the hands. Perspiration causes fluid loss and may increase swelling as well.
Another cause of hand swelling is an abnormally high or low sodium level. Eating too much salt can cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the surrounding tissue. Drinking too much water, particularly during endurance sports such as marathon running, can dilute the sodium levels and cause an electrolyte imbalance known as hyponatremia. One of the symptoms of hyponatremia is swelling, though other prominent signs, such as confusion or vomiting, may be more noticeable.
Women may have swollen hands during pregnancy or as a premenstrual symptom. Pregnant and premenstrual women retain water throughout the body. Swelling can be particularly prominent during pregnancy because the body increases the blood and fluid supply by roughly half. Feet also can swell as a result of both conditions.