Health

Why Your Fingers are Suddenly Swollen

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If walking is so good for you, then why does it make your fingers swollen sometimes? And what about after a nice, large meal? According to Rami Hashish, Ph.D., DPT, a body performance and injury expert and an adjunct clinical faculty member at the University of Southern California’s division of biokinesiology and physical therapy, your fingers can become swollen for a variety of reasons—and usually not terribly surprising ones.

Finger swelling—we’re not talking about swelling from arthritis or from spraining a finger; we’re talking about non-injury and non-medical swelling here—is often just a normal byproduct of some everyday activities. Here’s what to know about why your fingers swell, how to prevent it, and what to do when they look sausage-y and are usually pretty normal in size.

Why do my fingers sometimes get swollen when walking?

Your fingers can get swollen when you walk due to the blood flow requirements your body has when you’re working out. “To fuel your body during exercise, such as when you go for a fitness walk, there is an increase in blood flow – and thus, oxygen delivery – to your muscles, lungs, and heart. The increase in blood flow to these larger organs leads to less blood flow to your hands,” Dr. Hashish explains. “So, to counteract that, the blood vessels in your hands dilate (or expand) to maximize the blood and oxygen flow. The expansion of these blood vessels leads to those swollen fingers.”

What else causes finger swelling?

An even more common reasons your fingers swell is fluid retention. “It’s commonly caused by excessive salt intake and exposure to heat,” explains Dr. Hashish. “Essentially, this is when there’s a buildup of fluid in the joints and tissues of the fingers.”

Is there anything you can do to prevent or reduce finger swelling?

It’s pretty straightforward: Stay hydrated (see these 7 Easy Ways to Drink Enough Water Every Day) and try not to go overboard on sodium, if your hands are prone to swelling.

Dr. Hashish also recommends limiting excessive heat exposure. “Depending on the cause of swelling, elevating your hands, and applying ice may be beneficial in reducing it,” he adds.

While finger swelling during exercise is normal, finger swelling in all circumstances isn’t something to ignore. Swelling can also signal something more serious; some people with psoriasis get psoriatic arthritis, which can cause finger swelling; people who have had lymph nodes removed can also have a problem called lymphedema. See a doctor if the most likely reasons don’t seem to apply to you or if the swelling comes along with pain.

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