What is hand swelling? Hand swelling is a sign of fluid buildup or inflammation of the tissues or joints of the hand. Hand swelling, which is also called edema, can also result from serious infections, trauma, and other abnormal processes. Depending on the cause, hand swelling can last for a short time, such as when it occurs during or after exercise. Chronic hand swelling, or swelling that builds up over time, often indicates an inflammatory process, such as arthritis. Hand swelling can also be caused by orthopedic conditions, such as a bone fracture or a cast that is too tight. Because swollen hands can be a sign of a serious disease or disorder, you should seek prompt medical care and talk with your medical professional about your symptoms, especially if you experience hand swelling with pain, redness or warmth.