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Hand surgery

Fat Fingers and When You Should Call the Orthopedic Specialist


Swollen fingers are pretty common when the 'heat is on'. Many times this swelling is harmless—like, did you have a salty meal last night? If so, your fingers (and some other parts) may be swollen. Sometimes, though, the puffiness may sign a more serious health condition. Here’s some reasons why your fingers may be swollen and when it is a problem that needs a doctor’s attention:


1. Injury

Hit your finger against a hard surface or accidentally with a hammer, and you’ll trigger inflammation. The body’s first line of immune defense after an injury is swelling. If the swelling doesn’t go down after a day or two, you may have a fractured or broken bone. You should visit your doctor then for X-rays to see if that is what is causing the continued swelling.


2. Heat with Exercise

Maybe you’ve noticed fat fingers after golf, walking or exercising outdoors on a hot day. That’s a sign that your body is trying to cool itself down, just as sweating is.

Our bodies try to maintain a body temperature of a normal 98.6 degrees. When the temps in your workout environment start to rise, your body pumps extra blood into your extremities so more heat can escape through the skin. It’s not usually something to be concerned about and it should go away within minutes of being back inside in cooler conditions.


3. Arthritis

If there is persistent swelling primarily around your joints, you may have arthritis. 50 percent of adults ages 65 and older do, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Osteoarthritis, the “wear and tear” form of the condition, is most common. As bone cartilage wears down over time, bony growths develop near the joint, creating the appearance of swelling. See your doctor if you think you have arthritis.


4. Infection

If finger or hand swelling is accompanied by redness, heat, pain, fever, or chills, you may have an infection. First, take preventive measures anytime you get a cut and break skin. Clean the area well with soap and water and try to keep it dry after that. If the pain, redness and swelling persists, see the doctor right away to check for infection.

NOTE: Diabetics are especially at risk for infection after a cut so it is especially important for you to see your doctor immediately upon getting a cut that isn’t healing quickly.


5. Lymphedema

Lymphedema occurs when your lymph vessels are unable to drain lymphatic fluid from a limb. It can happen anytime the lymph nodes or lymph vessels suffer damage, such as from surgery. Generally, swelling occurs not just in the fingers, but the entire hand and arm as well. Cancer patients commonly experience cases of lymphedema before, during and after surgery treatment. Upon healing, it should lessen, but if it does not, let the oncologist know.

You should see a doctor at the first sign you may be experiencing symptoms of lymphedema.


6. Autoimmune Disease

In autoimmune diseases like lupus, the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues by mistake, causing inflammation. The skin, kidneys, brain, lungs, or heart may be affected. If the joints are involved, it can lead to puffy fingers. If you have an autoimmune disease and experience swelling, let your specialist know.


7. Medication

Though it’s not common, some medications can cause swelling, especially with oral steroids, high blood pressure medicine or diabetes drugs. If the swelling is causing discomfort, talk to your doctor about your prescription.


If your fat fingers are causing you concern and want to have them accessed, call The Precision Hand Surgery Center at Ortho El Paso for a consultation at 915-249-4000. Or visit us online at