Hand, finger and wrist swelling

We depend on our hands for everyday activities ranging from typing on a computer keyboard and opening the door to threading a sewing needle and opening a can of soup. When swelling or stiffness affects the hand, these everyday activities may become difficult or impossible. Hand swelling, and stiffness can be caused by several conditions including ganglion cysts, mucous cyst, giant cell tumours and arthritis. The commonest cause is ganglions.


The cause of ganglion cysts is unknown. However, one theory is that trauma to the hand and wrist can cause tissue in the joint to break down, forming small cysts that then join into a larger, more palpable mass. They are likely to be caused by a weakness in the joint capsule or tendon sheath that allows the joint or tendon fluid to escape out.


One of the main symptoms is the appearance of a soft lump that can be 1-3cm in diameter and can be a little mobile. It can appear slowly over time or suddenly, and may even disappear and reoccur. They can cause some pain and stiffness, but in most cases, they do not cause any pain at all. If it is painful, it will be worse when moving the affected joint or wrist. If it’s connected to a tendon, there may a sense of weakness in that area.

Ganglion cysts

A ganglion cyst is a swelling on top of a joint or tendon. It looks and feels like a sac of liquid as it contains a thick colourless jelly like fluid. On the hands or wrists, they can vary in size and it could be one large cyst or several smaller ones, which are connected with tissue giving them the appearance of a larger cyst.

These cysts are not harmful and account for about 50% of all soft tissue tumours on the hands. They are common in women and are more common in people aged 20 to 40.

They can be found on the front or back of the wrist, the base of the fingers on the palm side and below the cuticle.


Many cysts disappear without treatment, however in cases where it is causing pain or interfering with hand function surgical removal may be required. It is a simple and effective procedure with little recovery time.

Full List of Hand & Elbow conditions

Arthritis Of The Thumb


Dupuytren's Disease

(Dupuytren’s contracture)

Hand and wrist swelling

(Finger Stiffness)

Trigger Finger

(or Thumb)

Tennis Elbow

and Golfers Elbow

Hand and wrist pain

Swelling, and Stiffness

Tendonitis syndrome

& De Quervain’s syndrome