Are King Charles' Swollen Hands Part Of A Larger Concern For His Health?

Before her tragic death on September 8, Queen Elizabeth left fans worried about what exactly was going on with her health. After initially canceling a trip to Northern Ireland, she spent a night in hospital in mid-October 2021, per AP, then was forced to cancel a major engagement: her appearance at the COP26 climate summit. The then-95-year-old monarch was ordered to rest for at least two weeks, per People. There was even talk of the queen possibly stepping down from the throne due to her health, meaning then-Prince Charles would have stepped up as Britain's next king.

Ultimately, that didn't happen — perhaps because Charles had a number of obstacles to overcome before he was crowned king: a "cash for honours" scandal, the fact that he isn't actually all that popular in the U.K., and a possible health scare of his own. In November 2021, an Instagram fan account dedicated to the royals posted images of Charles and Camilla's trip to Jordan during which they visited King Abdullah II and Queen Rania. While the comments were mostly positive — "Lovely photos, nice to see a PDA from Prince Charles and the Duchess," wrote one fan — one particular image in the series shows what royal fans have been worrying about for years: the king's swollen hands. Now that he has officially ascended to the throne, the conversation is starting again. What is the cause of Charles' unusually large fingers — and should royal devotees be worried? 

Are King Charles' swollen hands part of a larger health problem?

In recent years, King Charles' swollen hands have regularly made headlines. On a trip to India back in 2019, he was photographed with red, puffy fingers, as well as swollen feet, when he visited a temple barefoot. More recently, his hands raised concern during Prince Philip's funeral with one fan tweeting (via Gloucestershire Live), "I've never noticed the hands of Prince Charles until this photo! Is he ok?" Even a trip to the pub in May caused a stir as one Twitter user asked, "What's going on with his hands/fingers?" As Metro noted, the monarch has repeatedly been snapped with "painfully" swollen hands and while visiting Australia in 2012, he himself reportedly quipped about having "sausage fingers."

So what's really going on? It's a question that's become increasingly popular and, according to Woman&Home, "sausage fingers" was the fourth most-Googled term in the U.K. between July 2021 and 2022. The curiosity was so high, in fact, that the NHS actually issued health advice on the matter back in May. According to Mirror, it honed in on oedema, or a "build up of fluid," as the source of the issue. Causes of oedema vary from standing or sitting for too long to eating too much salty food to the more serious, like blood clots or infection, but the NHS notes that in most cases it's nothing to worry about, and swelling will go away on its own after "a few days."

Should the public be worried about King Charles III's health?

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Charles automatically became King Charles III at 73. Given his age, his ascension sparked renewed interest in his health, especially because royal watchers have been concerned about his swollen, reddened hands for years. Dr. Gareth Nye, a senior lecturer at the University of Chester, spoke with the Daily Star soon after Queen Elizabeth's death to set the record straight about the new king's wellbeing. Outlining several possible causes, he honed in on oedema, which many have long believed to be the reason behind Charles' sausage-like fingers. 

As Dr. Nye explained, if that's the case, it's nothing especially unusual or worrisome. "Oedema is a common condition and mostly affects people over the age of 65 as the ability for fluid control is restricted," he told the outlet. Another possible culprit is arthritis which, again, is a common ailment in folks over 60 and can result in swollen fingers. Whatever the reason, Dr. Nye was adamant there is nothing to fear. "There certainly aren't any immediate health concerns to be concluded from swollen fingers and is most likely a sign of his age," he concluded.

Back in May, while on a royal visit to Canada, the king appeared to share an unexpected secret to healthy living: maple syrup! "It's great stuff, great stuff," he gushed, per Hello! "It's good for you." Indeed, according to WebMD, maple syrup is packed with a long list of minerals and antioxidants and may actually lower cholesterol and improve brain health, according to recent studies.