Hand edema is inflammation, swelling or fluid collection in the hand. Sounds basic by definition; however, edema in the hand can be extremely problematic and complex when there is a hand condition or injury.
Edema is the body’s response to healing itself, but, in the hand, large amounts and/or long-term swelling can cause permanent impairment and affect one’s ability to perform daily activities. It is one of the most common problems associated with hand injuries/conditions. Edema can be a primary focus during hand therapy as it can trigger so many other problems such as pain, lack of motion, scar tissue and decreased function of the hand and arm.
Edema can be acute in nature, which means it occurs in the first 24-48 hours after an injury or condition, or chronic (present 48-72 hours or longer after injury). Signs of acute hand edema are typically:
- Decreased mobility and use
Chronic hand edema can be hard or soft and, typically is not warm, red or throbbing; however, it can be painful and cause scarring and/or decreased function.