Swollen fingers are usually harmless, but sometimes sausage hands signal something more.

You have arthritis pain, and the inflammation in your joints causes your fingers to swell up and resemble little sausages. Or maybe you’ve chowed down on salty foods, and now your wedding ring is stuck on your finger.

Should you freak out? Probably not. Fingers swell for a lot of reasons, and many of them harmless. But sometimes the puffiness, medically known as dactylitis, points to more serious health conditions. Here are some of the common causes of swollen fingers, and when you should call your doctor.

1. It’s really hot outside

Heat causes blood vessels to expand, which allows more heat to escape through your skin so you can keep cool, explains Tammy Olsen Utset, MD, MPH, an associate professor in the rheumatology department at the University of Chicago. As the vessels stretch, some of their fluid can leak into your soft tissues and cause puffiness. 

Dr. Utset says this type of swelling tends to go away as you use your hands and continue your regular activity. But if you notice swelling only in your hands and fingers (and not your legs), accompanied by pain or a weak grip, that could be a sign it’s not just the heat and you need to consult your doctor.

2. You’re eating too much salt

General Tso’s chicken, lots of chips, or anything fried could be the cause behind your swollen fingers. Your body likes to keep a consistent salt-to-water balance, so when you down extra sodium, it compensates by retaining more water, leading to swelling, Dr. Utset says.

Typically, mild swelling brought on by salty foods goes away on its own within a day but it can last longer depending on how much extra salt is in your system. If you cut back on salt and the swelling persists, see your doctor, Dr. Utset advises.

3. You may have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis

Arthitis Hand


If it’s the bony finger joints themselves that are enlarged (say, you can’t get rings over your knuckles), osteoarthritis may be to blame, especially if your swollen fingers appear in the morning. This age-related form of arthritis is caused by the wearing down of the cushioning tissues at the end of your joints. Osteoarthritis is often, but not always, accompanied by pain and stiffness, Dr. Utset says.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that attacks the lining of the joints, can also cause swelling. Unlike osteoarthritis, RA isn’t age-related and can happen to anyone at any age. Swelling in people with RA often happen in the wrists and finger joints. “RA can cause the joints to swell up as well as cause inflammation in between the joints,” says Neha Vyas, MD, a physician in the department of family medicine at Cleveland Clinic.

4. An infection or injury could be to blame

Infections in your fingers, known as felons, cause your fingers (particularly around the tip, pad, or nail) to fill up with pus. Infections can form in different ways, but dishwashing without gloves, manicures, ingrown nails, hangnails, and biting your nails can all transfer bacteria to your fingers and lead to swelling, redness, and throbbing pain. Minor traumas and injuries, like cuts, puncture wounds, and splinters can also have similar effects.

When caught early, infections can be treated with warm water or saline soaks and antibiotic ointment, but if you’re in serious pain, have trouble using your finger, or notice any oozing pus, see your doctor ASAP, who can drain excess fluid and prescribe oral antibiotics if needed.

5. It could be a side effect of your tough workout

During exercise, your fingers and hands might swell because the blood vessels in your body are responding to the increased energy demands on your muscles. “When it comes to exercise, our body produces heat. The vascular system allows more fluid to release into our fingers, hands, and toes. This is the way the body cools down,” Dr. Vyas says.

6…or your medication

Certain medications can also cause swelling in the fingers and hands. Dr. Vyas says high blood pressure drugs, OTC pain meds, diabetes medications, steroids, and birth control pills can all cause puffiness as a general side effect.

7. You may be dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome

When the nerve that runs from the forearm to the palm of the hand is pinched or squeezed at the wrist, that’s when carpal tunnel syndrome develops, Dr. Utset explains, a condition that women are three times as likely to develop than men.

While there are typically various causes, repeated trauma or injury to the wrist, work stress, an under-active thyroid, and rheumatoid arthritis can all be triggers. Carpal tunnel syndrome can result in swollen fingers, and is usually accompanied by pain, burning, tingling, or numbness in the hands or arms—symptoms that often develop slowly over time. To help prevent and ease carpal tunnel syndrome, try these five stretches at your desk

8. Pregnancy could be messing with your body

Some swelling is typical for expectant moms. But swelling in the hands and face—especially if pressing your thumb into your skin leaves a noticeable indentation—can be a red flag for preeclampsia, a complication characterized by high blood pressure.

If preeclampsia goes untreated, it can lead to organ damage, including the liver and kidneys. Dr. Vyas says that in addition to swelling, signs of preeclampsia include blurry vision, high protein in your urine, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. The risk of preeclampsia is highest in pregnant women older than 40 or those having their first child. It’s also common in women carrying twins or triplets, and those who are obese.

9. You might have Raynaud’s disease

Raynaud’s Syndrome Phenomena Adult Hand


Raynaud’s disease is a rare condition characterized by narrowing of your arteries, which limits blood circulation. The causes are not completely understood, but cold temperatures, stress, injuries to the hands, tissue damage, and even certain drugs (like high blood pressure or migraine meds) may all be triggers. The condition is more likely to occur in women than men, Dr. Utset says.

Swelling—along with numbness, prickling, pain, or color changes in the skin—occurs most commonly in the fingers and toes when circulation returns (as you warm up or your stress dissipates). When an “attack” comes on, your fingers may first turn ghostly white, but other parts of your body can also be impacted, such as your nose, lips, or ears.

10. Kidney issues could be lurking

If your kidneys fail to remove excess fluids—also known as edema—your body will retain it, which could result in swollen hands. Edema can affect any part of your body, but swelling mostly occurs in your hands, feet, legs, and ankles. “When your kidneys aren’t filtering what needs to go out, the fluids stay within you,” Dr. Vyas explains. “The kidneys also help regulate the electrolytes in our body, so any type of kidney disease or kidney issue can affect this process. Hypertension and diabetes are some conditions that can cause these kidney problems,” she adds.

11. It might be a blockage in your lymphatic system

Lymphedema is a rare limb-swelling disease that comes on when lymph fluid (which carries waste, bacteria, and viruses out of the body) doesn’t adequately drain. Your fingers and toes may swell, and usually your arms and legs will swell, too. Your skin may also feel tight or thicker than usual, according to a report from the National Cancer Institute. Lymphedema has been linked with surgery or radiation breast cancer treatments. In rare cases, lymphedema can also be caused by an abnormal growth near a lymph node or vessel, which can lead to fluid blockage.



A report out today emphasizes how dangerous it can be to wait to see your dermatologist when you notice a worrisome spot on your skin.

Tracy Callahan had been seeing a dermatologist regularly all her life. Then her husband noticed an unusual-looking spot on the right side of her neck in August 2013.

A self-described “mole-y person,” Callahan didn’t think too much of it when she scheduled an appointment to get the spot checked out—or when she was told she’d have to wait four months to get in to see her dermatologist.

“I almost canceled that appointment 20 times over,” she tells Health, reflecting on the four months she had to wait to get the spot looked at. When the appointment finally rolled around, her dermatologist’s physician’s assistant immediately started taking pictures of her. Callahan remembers thinking, “Why is she taking so many pictures of this?” 

About two hours after that appointment, the head of the melanoma program at her dermatologist’s office called her. Callahan was told she’d have to have a biopsy the next day. She did, and she left that appointment with 15 stitches. That’s when it hit her. “Maybe this is more than a little mole,” she thought.

woman skin cancer melanoma health wellbeing beauty prevention sun UV


She was told by someone at her dermatologist’s office, “I have good news. [You] have melanoma, but we caught it early.”

The diagnosis shocked her. “It took me quite a bit of time to digest that that was ‘good’ news,” Callahan says. Eventually, though, she understood how fortunate she was. “I really was lucky that it was caught early,” she says.

However, this wasn’t Callahan’s last experience with melanoma, which is considered the most serious type of skin cancer. In fact, her journey was just beginning. One year to the day when she was diagnosed with melanoma the first time, she was re-diagnosed. The second melanoma showed up on her ankle. A third appeared in December 2014 on her arm, and a fourth appeared on her face in November 2017.

Ever since the first melanoma spot, Callahan has seen a dermatologist multiple times a year. “Every three to four months I get naked, and every nook and cranny of my body is examined,” she explains. Callahan knows her opportunity to be seen regularly is a blessing. When she goes to see her dermatologist she has what’s called total body photography, which means her body is regularly photographed. This allows her dermatologist to identify new and changing spots on her body. This was how her second, third, and fourth melanomas were identified.

Callahan understands that the access that she has to her dermatologist is a privilege. A report out today explains just how much of a privilege it is.

The report is from the Greater Access for Patients Partnership (GAPP), and it includes some alarming statistics about how difficult it is to be seen by a dermatologist in the U.S. The average wait time for a dermatology appointment is 32 days, according to the report, and 40% of patients wait between one and six months to be seen by a dermatologist.

If you’re seeing a dermatologist about a cosmetic procedure, a long wait time might not affect you too much. But if you’re waiting to have a potentially life-threatening melanoma checked out, as Callahan was, a long wait time could be fatal. Callahan says that if a melanoma’s caught sooner rather than later, it could mean “the difference between living and fighting for your life.” She speaks about a 22-year-old friend who developed 26 brain tumors from a melanoma, emphasizing that many patients aren’t as fortunate as she’s been.

“A crisis of long waits for dermatology appointments causes emotional, financial, and physical stress for patients and caregivers,” a press release for the new report says. It goes on to highlight some of the areas of the country where the crisis is especially bad. “The average wait time in Philadelphia is 78 days and even worse in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at 91 days.” The report notes that it’s even more difficult for rural and minority patients to get fast access to dermatology care, and that these patients “experience higher rates of melanoma mortality.”

woman skin cancer melanoma health wellbeing beauty prevention sun UV


“I think we’ve known for a while now that we have long wait times. Unfortunately, in dermatology, they’re getting longer,” says Joleen Volz, president of the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants, who works with GAPP.

What shocked Volz about the new report is the impact of long wait times on patients. “According to the report, 91% of patients said their skin condition impacted their daily life,” the press release says, not to mention “58% worried their skin condition would worsen while waiting, and half of the patients surveyed experienced anxietyfrom their untreated skin condition while waiting for care.”

“I guess what is most alarming is that the patients are actually feeling it,” Volz says. “Patients [are] reporting more anxiety. Even depression and sadness.” She notes that the wait times could negatively impact people who have skin conditions that are noticeable to others. “They’re missing certain events. They’re sitting at home, nervous about the spot they have. It’s causing anxiety; they’re worried their spot is getting worse,” she says.

Volz advises asking for an appointment with an available physician’s assistant if your dermatologist can’t see you soon enough. She also mentions that one of the potential solutions to this problem could be “getting primary care [doctors] more comfortable with more dermatological lesions that may be worrisome.”

A referral from a primary care doctor might expedite a patient’s treatment, Volz says. “If a primary care [doctor] calls me, I’m more apt to be able to get [their patient] in. If I have to stay late that night I would do that. However, it’s not always feasible,” she says. Another potential solution to this problem could be telemedicine since “dermatology tends to be visual,” Volz explains.

Callahan worries about a particularly dangerous side effect of long wait times at the dermatologist’s office: They might signal to patients that they shouldn’t worry about their skin. “When you have that wait time, you think it must not be that important, which is a big misconception. Because of those wait times people don’t think it’s important and, therefore, fall off the map,” Callahan says.

She says that if you’re worried about a skin condition and are told you’re going to have to wait a very long time to be seen by your dermatologist, it’s worth it to speak up and say, “I need to be seen sooner than that.”

“Patients need to advocate for themselves,” she says. “If you have a spot of concern and you’re seen quickly, it could save your life.”


Meal prepping—it’s one of those things we all know we should do but often don’t. On one hand, a proper meal prep session gives you the tools you need to eat healthy throughout the week, letting you save money and energy down the line. On the other hand, there are Netflix shows to be watched and weekends to be enjoyed! Not to worry—we asked some of the healthiest people around for their absolute best meal prep tips. Here’s what they said.

1. Make a base that can last for a few days.

My best tip for making meal prep easier would be to use a base that can last for a few days, such as a whole grain. You can use the grain in several different ways to prevent burnout from eating the same meal throughout the week, and it will last in the refrigerator for three to four days. 

Alanna Waldron, R.D., founder of Eats Real Food

2. Embrace leftovers.

Make extras for lunch or dinner the day before! This is the easiest meal prep tip. Making food for the entire week ahead can seem daunting…so don’t do it! Stick to the basics and just think about the next day or two in advance. Pair whatever leftovers you have from the day before with a few handfuls of mixed greens and enjoy!

Rachael DeVaux, R.D., founder of Rachael’s Good EatsArticle continues below

3. Put it on your calendar.

If the meal prep struggle is more mental, I encourage my clients to actually put it on their calendar and to give themselves the option of breaking it into smaller prep sessions if blocking out a whole hour or two doesn’t seem doable. Meal prep time is also a great time to catch up on your favorite podcasts, binge-watch a TV show, or listen to music. 

Jessica Cording, R.D., mbg Collective member and founder of Jessica Cording Nutrition

4. Mix in some store-bought items.

Meal prep doesn’t have to be completely homemade! For example, you could get some raw ingredients if you’re making a salad and combine some store-bought rotisserie chicken. I do this all the time, in fact today, I have lettuce and some cut-up veggies, and bought salmon and some pre-roasted squash to add on top for my salads this week!

Isabel Smith, R.D., founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition

5. Outsource.

I know this sounds like unchecked privilege, but the fact is, we all spend money on things we don’t need. I recommend taking a hard look at your budget and reallocating some funds away from expensive coffee drinks and fast fashion you don’t need and putting it toward outsourcing the essential but time-consuming tasks of our lives, like cooking. In our household, we like to hire a task rabbit at $20/hr. to help us chop and cook. It makes all the difference in making meal prep possible, and we actually SAVE money in the end because we’re eating home-cooked food instead of takeout. Takeout feels cheap in the moment, but it really adds up over the course of the week. Save money, eat healthier home-cooked food, and save time by outsourcing your meal prep. 

Ellen Vora, M.D., mbg Collective member and founder of

6. Make it fun.

Drink some wine and put on great music or your favorite podcast. Turning meal prep into a fun activity will take the dread out of it. 

—Allison (Aaron) Gross, M.S., R.D., CDN, founder of Nutrition Curator

7. Upgrade your tools.

Meal prep becomes far less daunting when you have the right tools to use in the kitchen! These days there are tons of fun kitchen gadgets on the market that make meal prep pretty seamless. If slicing an avocado isn’t your thing, there’s a specific slicer for it! If you avoid chopping onions because they make your eyes tear, there’s even a gadget that will chop the whole thing for you, at one time. Set yourself up for success ahead of time and let meal prep be something you look forward to versus something you dread. 

Leah Silberman, R.D., founder of Tovita Nutrition

8. Make one large batch meal.

As a functional medicine practitioner, it’s my job to make wellness practical, enjoyable, and sustainable for people, so this is my jam. A lot of people get overwhelmed with meal prepping partly because they believe they need to have a huge variety of elaborate meals with multiple ingredients. That couldn’t be further from the truth. To streamline meal planning, I like to make a large batch of one meal that can be easily portioned out for an entire week. A meal that can be made in the crockpot makes it even easier. Even if you just prep some wild-caught fish, pair it on top of a bed of dark leafy greens, add an avocado, and you have a simple easy lunch that can be made in one sitting.

Will Cole, D.C., mbg Collective member and author of KetotarianArticle continues below

9. Utilize your freezer.

I am a huge fan of keeping your freezer stocked with items like frozen veggies, frozen grains, sauces (i.e., basil, marinara sauce, etc.), nuts, and proteins like meatballs, turkey burgers, chicken sausages for a quickie heat-and-eat meal. 

—Stephanie Middleberg, M.S., R.D., CDN, founder of Middleburg Nutrition

10. Rely on pantry staples.

Meal prep sounds like a great idea but it can be hard to actually get your routine up and running. If you struggle with this, the key is to keep it super simple. I rely on a few pantry staples to help make batch cooking easier for all kinds of meals. Oats, honey, and chia seeds can be used to make batches of overnight oats. Combine equal parts rolled oats and milk of choice (cow’s milk or plant-based) with a few teaspoons of each honey and chia seeds; mix well and transfer to jars; cover and refrigerate overnight; top with fresh fruit before serving. Make large batches of brown rice in an Instant Pot and use for rice bowls, burritos, and fried rice. Canned beans are also a quick and easy way to add protein to an otherwise less satisfying salad, pasta dish, or quesadilla.

—Dana Angelo White, R.D., founder of Dana White Nutrition

11. Embrace ayurveda.

I recommend prepping the six tastes of ayurveda and having them on hand for a variety of Six Taste Bowls! The six tastes are sweet (like a sweet potato, butternut squash, or avocado), sour (lemon, ACV), salty (pink Himalayan sea salt), bitter (greens, cruciferous veggies, most veggies), pungent (turmeric, cumin, coriander, any spice), and astringent (legumes.) Focusing on tastes instead of calories or macros makes meal prepping intuitive, easy, and tasty!

Sahara Rose, ayurvedic expert and author of Eat Feel Fresh Article continues below

12. Prep while you are already cooking.

If you are already in the kitchen preparing a meal, such as dinner, it takes no time at all to prepare your lunch for the next day at the same time. You can even prepare a larger dinner to make a few extra servings, which you can enjoy for lunch the following couple of days. Always think of “doubling up” anytime you are preparing a main meal as you can either freeze your extra serving or simply pop it in the fridge for the next day! Two birds, one stone!

—Christal Sczebel, CHN, founder of Nutrition in the Kitch

13. Break it up into baby steps.

I believe the thought of meal planning and all that goes into it can be perceived as overwhelming to people with busy schedules (the people who probably need to meal plan the most!). But if you break it up into baby steps, and even designate those steps to different days, it becomes more manageable. For example, maybe on Friday you peruse recipes and make your grocery list; Saturday is your shopping day; any actual food preparation happens on Sunday. This way, not everything has to happen in one fell swoop, and you get into a good flow, eventually forming a new habit! 

Sara McGlothlin, holistic nutritionist, founder of


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