A palm reader tracing the length of your life line doesn’t have science on their side, but your hand does hold some clues to your health.
Changes in shape, color and texture of any part of the hand might reflect something unusual going on within your body that warrants a trip to the doctor.
Here are a few signs to look for and what they could mean.
Tingling and numbness in the fingers and palm
That pins-and-needles feeling in your hand could be the first indication of carpal tunnel syndrome, the result of a pinched nerve in the wrist. There is a possibility of permanent nerve and muscle damage if it’s left untreated.
See a doctor if:
- The numb feeling doesn’t go away
- Your grip becomes weak, causing you to drop objects
- Using your hand becomes difficult or painful
If the joints in your fingers start bulging out, chances are you are seeing the first signs of osteoarthritis. This is a degenerative disease in which the cartilage that cushions joints wears away. The ends of the bones rub together and cause spurs, which cause pain, swelling and stiffness in the fingers.
See a doctor if:
- You are experiencing mild joint pain that does not get better with home treatment (ice or heat)
- Unexplained swelling or warmth in the joint
- Pain that interferes with your ability to use your hand
When fingertips look a bit white and then turn blue and then red, especially after exposure to the cold, Reynaud’s syndrome could be the reason. The skin in the fingers is responding to a spasm of blood vessels, turning white when blood flow diminishes, blue with the resulting lack of oxygen and then red when the vessels reopen.
Reynaud’s syndrome is rare, but see a doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms. Often, treatment involves protecting the hands from cold, not smoking and medication.
Noticeably pale nail beds may indicate anemia, an iron deficiency.
Other symptoms of anemia include:
- Pale skin
- Inflammation of the tongue, and
- Cold hands and feet.
See a doctor if you are concerned that you may be anemic.
Spoon nails (nails that curve up)
If you can hold a drop of water on your fingernail, you have spoon nails. If this isn’t the result of trauma to the nail, it might be a symptom of anemia or may indicate a problem with your thyroid.
See a doctor to determine a course of treatment.
Changes due to aging
Just as the skin of your face wrinkles with age, so does the skin on your hands due to the natural loss of collagen. Thinner skin makes the veins more visible, and years of exposure to the sun can cause the appearance of “age spots,” small dark splotches on the back of the hand.
Usually starting in your 40s, the nail doesn’t stick to the nail bed as strongly, so the nail separates from the bed more easily. That can be exacerbated by certain manicure actions, such as removing gel nail polish or using a tool to clean under the fingernail, or by an injury to the nail.
Thickening, yellowing and vertical ridges in the nail also often occur with age.
Take care of your hands and yourself
If you see one of these symptoms, ask your doctor to take a look. If one of these symptoms causes you constant pain or interferes with your ability to perform daily tasks, see your doctor as soon as possible to get relief.