Your hands are very telling. They can say hello, and they can flip people off — but they can also say a lot about your health!
Here are 7 things your hands can reflect about your health:
In the short term, red palms might mean you gripped the shovel too hard when you planted tomatoes, hand-washed a few too many delicates, or grabbed the teakettle a few moments too soon. But if your palms remain reddened over a long period of time, this may be a condition called palmar erythema, which is a sign of liver disease, particularly of cirrhosis and nonalcoholic fatty liver. (One exception: If you're pregnant, red palms are normal, because increased blood flow causes redness in more than half of expecting women.)
Not good. So what do you do about it? Check out the other symptoms for the disease. Get properly evaluated too — don't just go to WebMD. Swollen legs, abdomen, prominent veins, fatigue. Just be safe and get checked.
There are all kinds of wives' tales and myths about finger length, so what's really going on there?
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. The study found osteoarthritis of the knees to be more common in both men and women with longer ring fingers, but the effect was most pronounced in women. 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.
What should you do? Be on alert. If you have some of those lengths, keep on guard for other signs. Get yourself checked if you're super nervous about it, but just use it as a warning, not as pure fact!
If you just got off an airplane, ignore this one for now. Swollen fingers can happen for the simplest of reasons: It's hot out, you're about to get your period, or you just ate salty ramen noodles. 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.
What should you do? Get a routine thyroid check. From a doctor. Not some dude in an alley.
Press on your 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 look pale all the time, this can be a sign of anemia.
What should you do? Alert your doctor, but it's probably iron deficiency. If it's bad it could cause heart problems, but most of the time you might just need to take a supplement. Also vitamin C will help with the absorption.
Tiny Red Strips Under Nails:
Called splinter hemorrhages because they look like tiny red or brownish splinters under the nails, these are minute areas of bleeding that can signal infection in the heart or blood. Because they run in the direction of nail growth, they resemble splinters that got stuck under the nail.
What should you do? Take your temperature.
Usually if it's bacterial endocarditis there will be a low fever. Don't panic though, and go to your doctor and get a routine check. If it's nothing, just wait for it to clear up!
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.
We learned this in health class. It's nice to see they weren't BSing us!
What should you do?
If your fingers and toes are clubbing, it's likely you've been noticing other symptoms, such a shortness of breath or chronic cough. Clubbing also occurs with aortic valve disease, which can cause fatigue and chest pain. See your doctor for a full heart and lung evaluation. Be sure to tell your doctor how long you've noticed the change in your fingers and toes, as well as how long you've been experiencing other symptoms.
To monitor the oxygen level in your blood, you can get tested by your doctor or use a pulse oximeter, available at most medical supply stores. If you think your heart and lungs are healthy, ask your doctor to run a standard battery of tests. If you're already aware that you have a heart or lung condition, discuss with your doctor whether this may be a sign of worsening symptoms.
Fingertips that are gray- or blue-tinged or feel numb can be a sign of a circulatory disorder known as Raynaud's disease or Raynaud's syndrome.
What should you do??
This one is actually very important, as attacks can happen suddenly so read this carefully:
Sudden changes in temperature, such as taking ice cubes out of the freezer, can bring on a Raynaud's attack, so be aware of this effect and ask others to perform such tasks when possible. Wear gloves when you go outside in cold weather, since cold is one of the major triggers for Raynaud's. Even temperatures below 60 degrees are a problem for many Raynaud's sufferers, so you may want to stash gloves in your car, in your purse or briefcase, and by the front door.
It's important not to ignore symptoms, since, over time, Raynaud's attacks can restrict circulation to the point of causing tissue damage. The best way to prevent Raynaud's is to make lifestyle changes to keep your circulation healthy. Smoking and caffeine both constrict blood vessels, so quit smoking and cut down on coffee, tea, and cola. Boost your aerobic exercise to raise your heart rate and get your blood pumping.
Some people suffer from "secondary" Raynaud's, brought on by another underlying condition. In this case, treating the underlying condition is the key to preventing Raynaud's attacks.
Wow! We never knew so much could come from our hands! Be on the lookout for these and you could potentially save yourself a lot of health issues!
[Image via AP Images.]