What Are the Common Causes of Arm Swelling?

An ice pack, which can help reduce arm swelling.
Arm swelling is commonly caused by a broken bone, which may be treated by a cast.
Fluid retention in the hands may be caused by poor circulation.
Arm swelling will come immediately after a person suffers a broken arm, meaning they'll likely need an x-ray taken of the arm.
Article Details
  • Written By: K. Gierok
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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While arm swelling, in and of itself, may not seem very serious, it is often a symptoms of a more serious condition. The most common causes include a broken bone, a strained or sprained muscle, or an infection. In some cases, water retention associated with a diet rich in sodium or a poorly functioning cardiovascular system can also be to blame.

One of the most common causes of arm swelling is a broken bone. Typically, swelling that is caused by a broken bone comes on almost immediately after the break occurs, and it is isolated to one particular area. As with any break, it is important that those who are injured to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Usually, once the broken bone is treated and placed in a cast, the swelling associated with the injury will decrease relatively quickly. Swelling that does not go down within a short period of time should be evaluated for possible infection.


Another similar cause is a strain or sprain to one of the muscles of the arm. As with a broken bone, swelling associated with a strain or sprain comes on very quickly after the injury occurs. Usually, the best way to treat it is simply to rest the affected body part and use an ice pack to decrease the inflammation. Individuals who have suffered from this type of injury should be sure to wrap the ice pack in a clean, dry towel in order to prevent potential skin damage from the ice.

In some cases, an infection can also lead to serious arm swelling. A broken bone, or a cut, scrape, or other type of abrasion can get infected easily if it is not cleaned and cared for correctly. In serious infections, prescription medication may be required to completely treat the condition.

Swelling is also sometimes caused by fluid retention, and occurs most often in the lower end of the limb, near the hand. Usually, this type of swelling is caused by a diet that's high in salt, or poor circulation. Individuals with this problem may find that reducing their salt intake and taking measures to improve their cardiovascular health can have a big impact on fluid retention.


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