Arthritis is a common cause of finger swelling. However, other conditions — such as injuries, preeclampsia, and trauma — may also lead to a swollen finger joint.

Finger swelling can happen when inflammation or fluid accumulates in the tissues or joints of one or all of the fingers. A person may lose some mobility and notice that their fingers are stiffer and more tender than usual.

Both minor and more severe infections and conditions can cause varying degrees of swelling in the fingers. If someone experiences finger swelling along with pain, heat, and flushing, they should seek urgent medical advice.

Read on to learn more about some potential causes of finger joint swelling that are not arthritis, accompanying symptoms, and treatment options.

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During hot weather, the blood vessels dilate. This makes it possible for more blood to flow through the skin, which cools it down as it loses heat to the air. When this happens, people may notice their fingers and feet swelling.


Generally, when someone experiences heat edema, their skin is shinier and stretched around the swollen area. They may also feel a tightness in their fingers when picking up cups and other objects.


To reduce heat edema, people should try to move into the shade. They should also ensure that they eat and drink enough during the day.

When a person exercises, they feel hotter. To cool down, the body pushes the blood closer to the surface of the skin to dissipate the heat. When this happens, a person may notice swelling in their hands, fingers, and feet.

However, finger swelling is sometimes a symptom of a more serious condition called hyponatremia. Exercise-related hyponatremia occurs when blood sodium concentration drops to a dangerous level because a person is exercising and drinking too much water without replacing lost electrolytes.


The early stages of hyponatremia may present with puffiness and swelling in the hands and feet. According to the National Kidney Foundation, if a person has sudden or severe hyponatremia, they require urgent medical attention.

Some other symptoms of hyponatremia include:


Finger swelling from exercising usually goes down when a person takes a break or ends their workout.

Treatment for hyponatremia varies depending on how low a person’s blood sodium levels are. Some people may need to stop drinking until they urinate, whereas others may need intravenous (IV) saline.

When blood sodium levels are severely low, some people may need hospital admission for close monitoring and frequent blood work. This is because hyponatremia requires very careful correction. However, if correction occurs too quickly, some people can become sicker, and this can be life threatening.

Common causes of hand and finger injuries include:

  • falls
  • sports
  • vehicle accidents
  • catching fingers in machines
  • thermal burns
  • chemical burns

When a person hurts their hand or fingers, they usually experience pain and swelling and lose finger mobility for a while.

If the damage is particularly severe and causes nerve injury, a person may later develop complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), which occurs when the body’s inflammatory response to the injury is too high.


Some CRPS symptoms include:

  • stiffness
  • pain
  • swelling
  • changes in skin color and texture
  • sweating
  • changes in hair or nail growth


When a person injures their finger, immediate treatment usually includes:

  • taking over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medications
  • taking OTC pain relief medications
  • taping the finger to restrict movement

If stiffness develops, the person may need to perform finger exercises and continue to take anti-inflammatory medications. If symptoms do not approve, a person should seek medical attention.

Hand and finger infections are common in people who work on farms and building sites. Staphylococcus aureus is the most prevalent bacterial hand infection and is responsible for 80% of cases.

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is the most common viral infection, whereas Trichophyton, Microsporum, and Epidermophyton species tend to cause most fungal infections.


Depending on where the infection is, a person could experience:

  • pain
  • heat around the swelling
  • skin darkening
  • abscess
  • loss of finger function

A person may also experience systemic infections, which cause symptoms such as fever and chills. This may be more likely if there is joint involvement of the infection.


Antibiotics can treat bacterial infections. HSV could resolve on its own, but a doctor may recommend antiviral treatment if it does not. Depending on how severe a fungal infection is, a doctor usually prescribes topical antifungal medications to apply to the affected area before considering oral medication.

A person should speak with a doctor if they experience any symptoms of an infection.

When someone has carpal tunnel syndrome, the median nerve in the wrist is compressed, which causes pain in the hands and fingers. In many cases, people report that their fingers feel swollen but that they cannot actually see any swelling.


Some other symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • numbness in the index and middle fingers
  • tingling during the day and night
  • difficulty grasping objects
  • weakness


A doctor may recommend the following carpal tunnel treatments:

  • splinting
  • avoiding activities that trigger pain
  • taking OTC pain relief medications
  • trying alternative therapies, such as acupuncture
  • undergoing surgery

Bursitis occurs when the bursa inflames. Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that sit between bones, tendons, and muscles. Bursitis can develop anywhere in the body, including the fingers, but common areas of inflammation tend to be in the hips, elbows, and knees.

When someone overuses their joints, it can lead to bursitis.


According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), some symptoms of bursitis include:

  • pain
  • tenderness around joint
  • reduced joint mobility
  • swelling and skin discoloration


Treatment options for non-infectious bursitis in the finger include:

  • resting the area
  • icing the area
  • taking OTC anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications
  • taping up the finger to reduce movement

Scleroderma means hard skin. It is an autoimmune condition that affects the skin and underlying connective tissue. It can also sometimes lead to multi-organ involvement.


When a person has this condition, they may notice their skin becoming stiff and swollen around the finger joints.

Some other symptoms of localized scleroderma include:

  • changes in skin color on the fingers
  • finger joint pain
  • taut and shiny skin where there is swelling
  • immobile fingers


There is currently no cure for scleroderma, but doctors can treat hardened skin and inflammation using corticosteroids.

Some swelling in the fingers is normal during pregnancy. However, if swelling occurs rapidly and with other symptoms, a person should contact a doctor immediately.

In the last trimester of pregnancy, some people experience preeclampsia. When this happens, blood pressure and swelling suddenly increase, which can be dangerous for both the parent and the fetus.


When a person has preeclampsia, they may experience:

  • swelling in the fingers, hands, and feet
  • a persistent headache
  • blurry vision
  • difficulty breathing

Learn more about preeclampsia.


When preeclampsia is mild, a doctor usually watches the person closely until they give birth. During this time, the doctor may test their blood and urine and monitor the fetus with an ultrasound.

In severe cases of preeclampsia, the individual may receive IV medication to control their blood pressure and prevent seizures.

People typically experience pain and swelling in the fingers after a sprain or injury. If the swelling does not show any signs of reducing after a few days, a person should contact a doctor — especially if the area feels hot.

Sometimes, finger swelling may be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as preeclampsia or scleroderma. In these cases, a person usually experiences other symptoms, such as headaches and pale fingers, respectively.

Finger swelling has various causes. Injuries, physical activities, and environmental factors such as hot weather can all cause finger swelling. Some rare autoimmune conditions, such as localized scleroderma, can also present with finger joint swelling.

If a person is pregnant and their fingers swell rapidly, they should contact a doctor to rule out preeclampsia.