Our hands are one of the most important parts of our body when it comes to day-to- day activities, and they are revealing, too. "It used to be common for doctors to look at the hands for important clues to overall health," says endocrinologist Kenneth Blanchard. “Hands can tell you a great deal about circulation, hormones, and thyroid function."
Here are 5 important clues your hands can reveal about your overall health:
Blotchy Red Palms: In the short term, red palms might mean you gripped the shovel too hard, washed a few too many dishes, or grabbed the teakettle too soon (or you are pregnant, as red palms may be normal due to increased blood flow). But if your palms remain reddened over a long period of time, this may be a condition called palmar erythema, which could be a sign of liver disease, particularly of cirrhosis and non-alcoholic fatty liver.
The Length of Your Fingers: Comparative finger length can tell you a surprising amount about your likelihood of having certain conditions. Typically, men's ring fingers tend to be longer than their index fingers, while in women it's the opposite. Women who have a "masculinized" pattern, with ring fingers longer than their index fingers, are twice as likely to suffer from osteoarthritis, according to a 2008 study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism. Longer index fingers, on the other hand, are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer in women and with a lower risk of prostate cancer in men. A 2010 study found that men whose index fingers were noticeably longer than their ring fingers were 33 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer.
Swollen Fingers: Swollen fingers can happen for the simplest of reasons like it's hot outside or you’ve eaten salty foods. But if your fingers feel thick and stiff or your rings still won't fit after several days of drinking plenty of fluids and cutting back on salt, the swelling could suggest hypothyroidism.
Pale Nails or Red Stripes Under the Nails: Under normal circumstances, if you press gently on your fingernails they turn white, and then when you release the pressure they turn pink again. If your nails stay white more than a minute after you press on them, or they look pale all the time, this can be a sign of anemia. Red stripes under the nails are called splinter hemorrhages because they look like tiny red or brownish splinters under the nails. These are minute areas of bleeding that run in the direction of nail growth, and they can signal infection in the heart or blood.
Thick, Rounded Fingertips: Known as "clubbing" thickened fingertips that angle out above the last knuckle like miniature clubs can be a sign of heart or lung disease. You may also notice the nail rounding, so your fingers curve downward like the inside of a spoon.
If you are concerned about what your hands may be telling you about your health, contact your doctor for a medical evaluation.