Why Everyone Is Talking About King Charles III's Hands

With the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, at age 96, eyes around the world turned toward her eldest son, Charles, now King Charles III, according to the BBC. On the day after his mother died, the new king addressed the nation and the world to pay tribute to the late queen. In the speech, King Charles also announced that his eldest son, William, and William's wife, Catherine Middleton, were now the Prince and Princess of Wales, and a clear indication that William is next in line for the British throne, as The New York Times reports.

King Charles III was 73 when his mother died, and the added visibility afforded by the queen's passing has led some to notice an unusual physical characteristic of the new monarch, who was already a high-profile figure before the queen's death, especially in the U.K. King Charles III has unusually swollen, red fingers, as observers have noted. What might cause King Charles' fingers to swell as they have remains unconfirmed, medical experts have now offered some theories, according to the Daily Star.

Many medical conditions can cause fingers to swell

Mention of King Charles III's fingers came up on Twitter from both sides of the Atlantic, with @barstoolsports tweeting, "Not Nearly Enough People Are Discussing the Comical Size of King Charles' Fingers." Elsewhere, @Hilton_Cheng tweeted, "King Charles' fingers look like blunt objects," with many other individuals posting pictures of Charles, comparing his fingers to sausages. To get to the bottom of why King Charles' fingers look like they do, the Daily Star asked Dr. Gareth Nye, Senior Lecturer at the University of Chester, what might cause the problem. Dr. Nye suggested that a number of common medical conditions could be to blame, and among the most likely explanations might be edema.

According to the Mayo Clinic, edema is an extra build-up fluid in body tissue, often in the hands, legs, and feet. Speaking with the Daily Star, Dr. Nye calls edema a common condition that mostly affects people over the age of 65, "... as the ability for fluid control is restricted." Edema can be caused by a number of underlying diseases like congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, or sometimes certain medications. Medication is used to treat the condition, separate from the specific treatment of what may have caused it. Limiting dietary salt intake is another way to address the problem, as Mayo Clinic notes.

It might also be caused by arthiritis

As Dr. Nye goes on to explain (via the Daily Star), on top of those possible medical conditions, King Charles III might also be living with arthritis, a common enough condition for people his age. One side effect of psoriatic arthritis, in particular, which often affects the hands, is swollen fingers, as Cleveland Clinic explains. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis might also be causes of the condition.

Arthritis, Dr. Nye said, "... often affects three main areas in the hand — the thumb joint or either joints in the fingers ... Fingers usually become stiff, painful and swollen and although medication can help with the pain, the swelling can remain." Regardless of what may be the root cause of England's new King Charles III's puffy fingers, Dr. Nye also said it's unlikely to indicate a serious health concern, and that those swollen fingers are most likely explained by the king's age — he'll turn 74 in November.

Big hands since birth

Not to undermine any of the medical seriousness surrounding King Charles III's apparent swelling, but even his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, described her son as having unusual hands shortly after his birth. The Mirror reports her writing in a letter about her newborn, "The baby is very sweet and we are enormously proud of him. He has an interesting pair of hands for a baby," continuing, "They are rather large, but with fine long fingers quite unlike mine and certainly unlike his father's. It will be interesting to see what they become. I still find it hard to believe I have a baby of my own!"

Others have noticed King Charles' heavy-set hands throughout his life. Back in 2012, Charles himself referred to his digits as "sausage fingers" while on a trip to Australia. Hotter climates and long flights also seemed to exacerbate the swelling. Swollen hands on flights isn't an uncommon occurrence at all, in fact, as Mayo Clinic explains, as appendages generally tend to swell if they remain immobile for long periods of time.

At present, the UK National Health Service (NHS) has gotten on board the discussion by offering advice to people about how to cope with swollen limbs, as the Mirror describes. The advice includes some common sense items like drinking enough water, walking around a bit, and gently massaging the affected area.