What are hand cramps?
Cramps in your hand can arise from a number of different causes. Hand cramps develop as a result of conditions affecting muscles and nerves in your hand. Trauma or injury to a nerve in your hand can also cause hand cramps. Even breathing too fast (hyperventilation) can result in hand cramps, as carbon dioxide levels in the blood become too low. Everyday, simple reasons, such as fatigue from overuse, can lead to temporary, acute cramps in the hand.
Hand cramps are usually brief, but they can be severe and painful, and sometimes accompany a tingling or burning sensation (paresthesia). This is a common in those with diabetes and others who have suffered damage to the peripheral nerves (peripheral neuropathy, a disorder that causes dysfunction of nerves that lie outside your brain and spinal cord). Dehydration is a common cause for cramping due to low levels of calcium, magnesium, and fluids in the body. Heat exhaustion can lead to dehydration and cramping in the muscles of the hand and other extremities like your legs.
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Hand cramps may be recent in origin (acute), such as from injury or muscle fatigue, or develop over time (chronic), resulting from such conditions as kidney disease and dialysis. In some situations, hand cramps can occur as a result of chronic medical conditions that affect your entire body, such as thyroid disorders, dystonia (abnormal prolonged muscle contractions), or diabetes.
While not serious by itself, hand cramping can be a sign of dehydration. If left untreated, severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can result in shock or coma and may be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have symptoms of severe dehydration including change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out of unresponsiveness, or change in mental status or sudden behavior change, such as confusion, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations and delusions.
If your hand cramp is persistent, recurrent, or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.
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- Hand or foot spasms. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003194.htm
- Hand injuries and disorders. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/handinjuriesanddisorders.html