What Are Edema Gloves?

Misty Amber Brighton

Edema gloves are a medical accessory or therapeutic device that brings gentle compression to the hands and forearms as a means of controlling the symptoms of edema. Edema is a condition characterized by a buildup of fluid in various bodily tissues that can lead to swelling and discomfort. There are a couple of different styles and forms these gloves can take, and in most cases they don’t look inherently medical. They’re usually made from somewhat thin and elastic material so they don’t normally give much warmth, but they can be mistaken for general fashion gloves by people who aren’t aware of their main use. Depending on the severity of a person’s edema, the gloves may need to be worn for anywhere for just a few hours to more or less constantly. Some gloves are fingerless, which allows wearers to do things like type or use smartphones while wearing them. No gloves are able to actually cure edema, though when used properly they can reduce symptoms, often significantly.

Shortness of breath may be experienced by people suffering from pulmonary edema.
Shortness of breath may be experienced by people suffering from pulmonary edema.

Understanding Edema Generally

In the medical world, “edema” is often used as something of a catch-all term for swelling that happens anywhere in the body for virtually any reason. Swelling, in turn, is basically when water or other fluids are trapped in various tissues. A couple of different things can cause swelling, but injury, inflammation, and blockages due to things like blood clots are some of the most common.

Edema gloves are normally used to help reduce the swelling that’s localized in the hands and arms. Affected people could find it easier to perform normal activities, such as writing or picking up objects, while wearing this kind of item.

Value of Constant Compression

The swelling associated with chronic or long-lasting edema can often make completing simple tasks difficult. One of the most effective treatment options is usually compression, which is to say gentle pressure on the outside of the skin. This pressure can force a rebalancing of fluids at the surface level of the skin, which releases tension and usually relieves the condition, at least in the short term.

Gloves are generally recommended by a doctor after diagnosing the condition. Some of the symptoms of edema can include puffiness of the skin, a sudden increase in abdominal size, and skin that retains a dimple after being pressed for a few seconds. People who have one or more of these conditions may want to seek the advice of a physician. A doctor can determine whether or not an individual has edema, and advise the patient if she should use these gloves to alleviate suffering. Compression gloves can often be found in pharmacies and online, but getting a medical practitioner’s advice first can help guide any purchase and can ensure that patients end up with a product that will actually help alleviate their specific condition.

Glove Styles and Overall Appearance

These gloves may fully cover the fingers. They might also only cover them halfway, leaving the fingertips exposed. Edema gloves usually extend one to two inches (2.54 to 5.08 cm) past the wrist on most people.

Normally, the gloves are made of a stretchy fabric, like Lycra®. They might also be made of nylon or a nylon-Lycra® blend. Typically, these medical garments can be washed in a washing machine without shrinking. They may need to be hung up to dry, however, rather than machine dried.

Sizing Guide

There are a number of different sizes of edema gloves, designed to fit people with small to large hands. The correct size is usually determined by measuring the circumference of the affected individual's palm. Extra small gloves normally fit a person whose measurements are 7 inches (17.78 cm) around or less, whereas small gloves are designed for people with a palm circumference from 7 to 8 inches (17.78 to 20.32 cm). Medium-sized ones fit measurements between 8 and 9 inches (20.32 to 22.86 cm), while large is for people with hands that span 9 to 10 inches (22.86 to 25.4 cm) in circumference. A snug fit is usually best.

Cautions Related to Pulmonary Edema

In general, compression gloves should not be used as a treatment for pulmonary edema, which is a related but wholly separate condition. Pulmonary edema is a heart condition often characterized by swelling, but the affected individual may also exhibit chest pains and shortness of breath. Compression can often make things worse in these cases and can be quite dangerous. Heart patients should seek the advice of a medical professional before coming up with a care plan, and should not attempt any self-treatment.

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Discussion Comments


@Perdido - That is good news to me! I have recently been having problems with painful arthritis, and there’s not a lot of medicine I can take because of a kidney condition I have.

Anti-inflammatory drugs are used to treat arthritis, and I am not allowed to take any of them. About the only pain reliever I can safely take is acetaminophen, and it doesn’t help my arthritis at all.

I tried on my mother’s edema gloves just to see what they felt like. I didn’t have edema myself, but my fingers seemed to feel better when I wore them. I guess that’s because they are related to arthritis gloves, which I didn’t know existed.

I am only 32, and I hate to think of a future without relief. I am going to give arthritis gloves a try. I sure hope they work as well for me as they do for you.


Edema gloves sound just like the ones I wear to alleviate my arthritis pain. When I asked my doctor about medication to ease my suffering, he recommended arthritis gloves instead.

They are made out of a stretchy cotton blend, so they allow my skin to breath. They are soft and comfortable, and I sometimes even wear them at night.

The fingertips are open, so I can feel and grip things better. The slight compression they provide warms up my hands and stimulates my circulation.

Like edema gloves, they reduce swelling. My joints have fluid built up in them during flare-ups, and the gloves encourage it to move on out.


After I underwent radiation therapy for cancer, I developed lymphedema. My lymph fluid collects in my arms, legs, and fingers, and I have to wear compression garments to coax it to flow out of them.

I have a collection of lymphedema gloves, bandages, and gauntlets, which are the gloves with open fingertips. They come in a variety of prints. I have some covered in flowers, butterflies, and leopard spots.

Often, I start out with a bandage. I wrap it all the way around my arm, starting with my fingers, where I wrap it the tightest. I wind it more loosely the further up I go.

Some days, my fingers are affected more than my arms and legs. On these days, I will wear either the gloves or the gauntlets. I choose a pair to match what I’m wearing.


I wear edema compression gloves to alleviate the swelling brought on by my kidney condition. They do seem to reduce the puffiness.

My fingers and palms started retaining fluid about two months ago. They became partially numb because of this, and because they were so awkward and chunky, it was hard to type and use a pen.

The gloves are so stretchy that they allow for a wide range of movement. I didn’t think I would be able to type while wearing them, but I was wrong. Since they reduce the swelling, my fingers actually become smaller as I wear them, making it easier to press the right keys.

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