Even minor changes to your palm, nails and fingers can point to bigger underlying health issues
Your health is in your hands, and quite literally so. Our hands are the barometers of our well-being and the littlest changes on them may convey a serious medical problem elsewhere in the body.
Your nails should be a healthy, pinkish colour. If they have a greenish-yellow tinge then you probably have a fungal infection and should ask your doctor for an anti-fungal treatment. Besides, yellow nails can be a sign of a lung disease.
Brown marks below the nail line can point to a suspicious mole underneath and pitted-looking nails, where the normally smooth surface has several small dents on it, are normally associated with psoriasis. If you notice any unexplained changes to the colour of your nails, you should see a doctor.
A healthy nail should be slightly raised in the middle and slightly curved down at the tip. If you nail looks the opposite of this, like a spoon, it’s a symptom of iron deficiency and anemia. You can correct this by taking iron supplements and including more dark green veggies and some red meat in your diet.
Nail clubbing, where the nail takes on a ball-like shape, is even more worrisome as it can mean an internal disease such as lung cancer or heart problems. See your doctor if your nail beds soften and nails appear to float rather than staying firmly attached.
Small lumps close to the nail beds are the first signs of osteoarthritis. These lumps come up as the disease causes a loss of joint space, leading to broadening of joints while new bones begin to form. Osteoarthritis, which is general wear and tear of the joints, is common among women and is painful.
Everyone’s hands shake to some degree but if yours tremble noticeably, it may be an early warning sign that you are developing Parkinson’s disease, which affects the nervous system. Shaky hands could also be blamed on stress, anxiety or drinking too much alcohol or coffee. You could also have an ‘essential tremor’, an inherited neurological condition. See your doctor if you notice any shaking, slowness of movement or rigidity.
Very dry skin can be a sign of an under-active thyroid as it causes the skin to lose moisture. It can also mean that one may be sensitive to soaps and other cosmetics. Hands also tend to lose moisture after menopause because the skin dries out when a women’s oestrogen level drops.
For centuries doctors have associated a reddening of the palm with liver disorders, in particular cirrhosis. Liver palm, or palmar erythema, is thought to be caused by blood vessels which are dilating in response to the hormone imbalance caused by the damage to the liver. The reddening occurs on the outer edge of the wrist, from the base of the thumb, along the wrist to the little finger. Other signs are a whitening of the nails, caused by the protein deficiency typical in liver disease, and jaundiced skin. Red palms can also be a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders and, sometimes, pregnancy.
Our palms often heat up when we are nervous or anxious, but if this is happening to you on a regular basis, your thyroid could be to blame. An over-active thyroid causes an increase in your metabolic rate. This means you burn more calories and sweat more as your body temperature increases. You may also experience unexplained weight loss, a constant feeling of nervous energy and a swelling of the thyroid gland in the throat. An overactive thyroid can be treated with medication.