Swollen arms and hands (oedema)
Swelling in the arms or hands often goes away on its own. See a GP if it does not get better in a few days.
Common causes of swollen arms and hands
Swelling in the arms and hands is often caused by a build-up of fluid in these areas, called oedema.
Oedema is usually caused by:
- staying in the same position for too long
- eating too much salty food
- being overweight
- being pregnant – read about swollen ankles, feet and fingers in pregnancy
- taking certain medicines – such as some blood pressure medicines, contraceptive pills, antidepressants or steroids
Oedema can also be caused by:
- an injury – such as a strain or sprain
- sudden changes in temperature – such as very hot weather
- an insect bite or sting
- problems with your kidneys, liver or heart
- a blood clot
- an infection
Check if you have oedema
Symptoms of oedema include:
How to ease swelling yourself
Swelling should go away on its own, but there are some things you can try to help.
lie down and use pillows to raise the swollen area when you can
move your whole arm and shoulder – try raising your hand above your head while you open and close your fist
massage your arm or hand towards your body using firm, but not painful, pressure – for example, start at your fingertips and massage towards your palm
get some gentle exercise, like walking, to improve your blood flow
drink plenty of water
wash, dry and moisturise your arms or hands to avoid infections
do not stay in the same position for long periods of time
do not wear clothes that are too tight
Treatment for swelling and oedema
Treatment for swelling or oedema that does not go away on its own will depend on the cause.