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Swollen Fingers in the Morning: Causes and Cures

Updated on May 23, 2017
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Trained in dentistry, Sree is currently studying lab sciences. She enjoys researching various health topics and writing about her findings.

Having swollen fingers first thing in the morning can be inconvenient, uncomfortable, or just plain annoying. Both the causes and severity of this condition can vary.

If you're just experiencing hand or finger swelling without any other symptoms, it's likely that it's not something very serious and that it will go away in time, probably within the day. The most common causes for hand swelling with no other symptoms (like fever, pain, or itching) include:

  • Eating salty food the previous day
  • Warm weather
  • Sleep posture that allows your hands to accumulate fluid or puts pressure on your hands

Regardless of the cause for swelling, there are a couple of things you can do to start relieving it right away:

  • Elevate your hands above your heart for an extended period
  • Perform hand exercises to get your muscles moving, like clenching and unclenching your fists or moving each finger individually
  • Give yourself a hand massage or have someone rub your hands

Below I'll go into more detail on what can cause swelling and how it can be treated.

Possible Causes of Swollen Fingers in the Morning

Cause
Details
Other Symptoms
Treatment
High-sodium diet
Eating a lot of salt can cause your body to retain water, leading you to notice swelling in your hands the next day.
Feeling really thirsty, feeling "puffy"
Will go away by itself
Sleep posture
How you sleep can make your hands swell during the night — if you put pressure on them or if they are in a decline position, they may retain water
None
Will go away during the day
Pregnancy or being pre-menstral
Hormone shifts in your body can cause your body to retain more water
Increased swelling may be noticed by the 3rd trimester
N/A
Arthritis
Swelling, stiffness, and pain in the joints are all symptoms of arthritis
Joint redness and warmth, loss of range of motion
See a doctor — treatment varies
Overuse and tendinitis
If you play a sport or have a job that requires your hands to make the same motion over and over, you could get an injury called tendonitis that might lead to swelling
Joint pain and stiffness, loss of strength
Should go away when you stop the repetitive motion
Side effect of medication
Some medications can cause your body to retain water
Varies depending on the medication
Consult your doctor
Angioedema
This is dramatic swelling that occurs beneath the skin, usually caused by an allergic reaction
Redness, warmth, and itching
Mild cases can be treated at home with ice and antihistamines
Insect bites and stings
Swelling can be the result of different kinds of bug bites
Depends on the bite, but usually accompanied by redness and itching
Most cases can be treated at home; see a doctor if having a severe allergic reaction
Lupus
This is an auto-immune disorder that can have many wide-ranging symptoms, including joint stiffness and swelling
Low-grade fever, fatigue, butterfly-shaped rash on the face
Consult your doctor
In order from most to least likely (high sodium is most likely and lupus is least likely)

Reducing Swollen Fingers: Hand Massage and Other Tips

Possible Causes of Swelling

High-Sodium Diet

Your body needs salt to function, but eating too much can cause your body to retain excess water, which may lead to swelling in your fingers.1 Even just one very salty meal can make you feel puffy the next day.

Many people eat too much salt without even knowing it. Eating out at restaurants or eating highly processed foods increases the likelihood of eating too much salt.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If the cause of your swollen fingers is your diet or something you ate, things should go back to normal within a day or so. If you continue to retain water even though you've changed your diet, there may be something else going on and you should consider seeing a doctor.

Sleep Posture

The way you're sleeping could be affecting your fingers. If your bed isn't level or if you sleep with your wrists bent, you may be causing your fingers to swell.

Since you're asleep, you may not feel discomfort even if blood circulation is partially blocked. It's only upon waking up that you'll realize the pressure you put on your fingers and wrist. You may feel pain too.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Fortunately, you can get quick relief from swollen fingers due to poor sleep posture. Try elevating your hands above your heart to restore circulation. If that doesn’t work, place a block of ice on top of the affected area. You can perform simple hand exercises as well in order to get your body moving and help you deal with the discomfort.

Try wearing a brace at night to prevent poor wrist posture during sleep. If possible, switch to a sleeping position that doesn’t put pressure on your wrist and fingers and keeps them slightly elevated. If the problem persists, you should consult a doctor.

Being Pregnant or Pre-Menstrual

Changes in hormones either during the menstrual cycle or during pregnancy can cause your body to retain water.1 With the regular menstrual cycle, the swelling should go away after you start your period.

For pregnant women, some swelling in the legs and feet is common towards the end of the pregnancy. Some of this fluid can be transferred to the hands at night when the body is in a level position. Excessive swelling all over the body during the day, however, could be a sign of something more serious and you should consult your doctor.

Arthritis

Put simply, arthritis is the inflammation of your joints — either one or many of them.2 There are many different types of arthritis, but the most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Depending on the kind you have, symptoms of arthritis can include:2

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling in joints
  • Redness
  • Decreased range of motion

These symptoms may be especially prominent in the morning if you have rheumatoid arthritis.3

You are especially at risk for arthritis if:

  • You are an older adult
  • You have a family history of arthritis
  • You are a woman
  • You have a previous joint injury
  • You are obese

Diagnosis and Treatment

Arthritis needs to be diagnosed by a doctor, who will recommend a course of treatment based on the kind of arthritis that you have. This may include prescription or over-the-counter medication, therapy, or possibly surgery.

Some of arthritis' symptoms can be treated without medication. Hot and cold therapy can be very effective.4 Taking a warm bath in the morning, using an electric blanket, or using a heating pad can ease stiffness and loosen joints. Applying an ice bag and other cold treatment methods, on the other hand, can help relieve joint pain and swelling.

Over-the-counter medications, such as corticosteroids, analgesics, and other anti-inflammatory drugs can also help provide relief.

Overuse and Tendinitis

This is another common cause of swollen fingers. If you use your hands frequently in strenuous activities such as lifting, heavy exercise or repetitive motions at work or in a sport, you could suffer from swelling and tendinitis. Symptoms can include:5

  • A dull ache or pain in the affected area
  • Tenderness
  • Mild swelling

Diagnosis and Treatment

Most cases of tendinitis responds well to home treatment. Try some of the following:5

  • Rest — stop the activity that likely caused the tendinitis and allow the affected area to heal
  • Ice — apply ice to the affected area for up to 20 minutes at a time throughout the day to decrease pain
  • Compression — a compressive bandage or wrap can help reduce swelling
  • Elevation — raising the affected area above your heart can help reduce swelling

You can also try wearing a brace, building a new work set-up, or doing hand stretches throughout the day. Make sure to get sufficient rest, too — switch to simple exercises that don’t put stress on your joints.

Side Effects of Medication

Some medications can cause swelling as a side effect, in particular:6

  • Medications for high blood pressure
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Steroid drugs
  • Estrogens
  • Certain kinds of diabetes medications called thiazolidinediones

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you recently started taking a new medication and noticed the swelling begin after that, you should talk with your doctor and see if there's any way to either treat the symptoms or modify the dosage to prevent swelling from happening.

Angioedema

This is a skin condition characterized by swelling beneath the surface of the skin. Generally it affects the underlying skin layers of the eyes, lips, and ears, though it can also affect the fingers. It's often caused by an allergic reaction, though it could also be caused by environmental conditions, genetics, or underlying medical issues.7

Apart from the swelling in your fingers, your hands may also be red and feel like they're hot.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A case of mild angioedema in your hands should go away on its own. If it lasts for several days or if your throat is swelling you should seek medical attention.

You can treat yourself at home by applying ice, anti-itch creams, or antihistamines.

Insect Bites and Stings

Bites or stings can cause swelling of the skin, especially if they're on or near the fingers. They can also cause an intense burning sensation.

In many cases, the swelling and the burning subsides after a few minutes or hours. If it doesn't subside naturally, you can treat at home with an anti-histamine tablet or steroid cream.

There are many different types of bugs that can bite and cause you physical discomfort, but most of them are not dangerous (though they may be annoying.)8

Diagnosis and Treatment

Use ice and elevation to reduce swelling, and a topical antihistamine for itching. If the problem persists or if you're having a severe allergic reaction or trouble breathing, you should see a doctor.

There are also some bugs that are known for carrying disease. If you have symptoms that last for a long time after you were bit, you should see a doctor.

Lupus

Lupus is a chronic condition when your own immune system attacks your body.9 It can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms closely resemble other illnesses. It also varies considerably from person to person.

Some of its most common symptoms are:

  • Fatigue and fever
  • Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling
  • A butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and the bridge of the nose
  • Being sensitive to sunlight
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches, confusion, and memory loss

Diagnosis and Treatment

If, in addition to swelling in your hands, you're also experiencing unexplained fever, rash, or persistent aching or fatigue, you should see a doctor. Your doctor will conduct a series of tests to find out what the causes of your symptoms might be.

What to Do About Swollen Fingers

If you're experiencing swollen fingers in the morning, try the following remedies for immediate relief:

  • Do hand exercises; simple exercises like hand stretches and wrist rotations can significantly improve blood circulation
  • Elevate your hands above your heart
  • Ice your hands
  • Take or anti-inflammatory medicines as they can provide immediate relief if you're experiencing an allergic reaction

Lifestyle changes to make if swollen hands are a recurring problem:

  • Drink plenty of water during the day to keep you hydrated
  • Reduce alcohol intake. Since it can act like a diuretic, alcohol can cause dehydration
  • Change your diet, focusing on eating vegetables, fruits, and low-sodium foods
  • Rest your hands if they are overused or move them if they are not used enough; too much pressure as well as too much use can weaken the area around your fingers
  • Change the way you sleep
  • Exercise; setting aside time for regular workouts can fight some causes of swelling and improve your overall health
  • Lose weight — obesity can cause edema (swelling) and water retention; be mindful of your daily nutrient intake and make sure that you’re getting the right amount of nutrients
  • For persistently swollen hands with no other symptoms, wear compression gloves

If your symptoms persist or get worse, please consult a doctor as it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Sources Used

  1. Reviewed by William Blahd, MD. "Why Am I Retaining Water?" January 28, 2016. WebMD. Accessed May 20, 2017.
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. "Arthritis." January 7, 2016. Mayo Clinic. Accessed May 20, 2017.
  3. Reviewed by David Zelman, MD. "Understanding Arthritis -- Symptoms." February 5, 2017. WebMD. Accessed May 20, 2017.
  4. Ellis, Mary Ellen. Medically Reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT. "Natural Relief From Arthritis Pain." May 8, 2017. HealthLine. Accessed May 20, 2017.
  5. Mayo Clinic Staff. "Tendinitis." November 14, 2014. Mayo Clinic. Accessed May 20, 2017.
  6. Mayo Clinic Staff. "Edema." September 19, 2014. Mayo Clinic. Accessed May 20, 2017.
  7. Mayo Clinic Staff. "Hives and Angioedema." November 9, 2016. Mayo Clinic. Accessed May 20, 2017.
  8. Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA. "What Caused This Bug Bite?" March 22, 2016. HealthLine. Accessed May 20, 2017.
  9. Mayo Clinic Staff. "Lupus." November 18, 2014. Mayo Clinic. Accessed May 20, 2017.

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    • profile image

      FAREED 2 months ago

      THANK YOU SO MUCH I COULD NOW MAKE OUT WHAT IS CAUSING MY SWELLINGS...

    • profile image

      bunny 4 months ago

      this is a very good article

      helped me a lot;D.

    • profile image

      Gwendolyn 4 months ago

      Good advice.

    • profile image

      Amelia, 4 months ago

      Amelia, see a doctor about your blood sugar levels. Your blood sugar shouldn't be getting that high. Although there are variables, such as your diet....how much sugar or carbs you are consuming that effect those readings, unless you are consuming excessive amounts of sugar/carbs, you shouldn't see numbers that high. If you have developed diabetes, left untreated, it can cause significant permanent damage to your body or even death! So please, don't wait......seek guidance from a doctor asap!!

    • profile image

      Amelia 5 months ago

      Sometimes, my blood sugar gets between 350 and 400 and my left hand swells up pretty bad. I am confused as to what is causing this.

    • profile image

      Gloria H 6 months ago

      Raising my hands over my head seemed to work in reducing swelling. Thanks for the advice.

    • healthbooklet profile image
      Author

      Sree Lakshmi 7 months ago

      Thanks Mont, Updated :)

    • profile image

      Mont 7 months ago

      please look into the last line and edit. You have mentioned "Please make sure that you're not getting the right amount of nutrients"

    • profile image

      JParonable 10 months ago

      Thanks for the information, this is a big help.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      This is a fantastic hub. Very helpful to those of us whose fingers swell and it is very painful.

      Thank you, healthbooklet, for sharing this information. Voted up and all the way.

      Keep the great work coming.

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