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If Your Hand Looks Like This You May Be Seriously Ill, Say Experts

Expert warns to pay attention to these signs your hands are trying to tell you. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Our body gives many warning signs that there's a problem we need to pay attention to and our hands especially can fire off signals indicating there's a major health issue. How they look and feel is very telling to medical experts and in some cases reveal you might be seriously ill. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Sean Marchese, MS, RN, a registered nurse at The Mesothelioma Center with a background in oncology clinical trials and over 15 years of direct patient care experience who shares what your palms can say about you. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Clubbed Fingers

An elderly man has pain in his fingers and hands

Marchese explains, "Clubbing is the term for changes in the fingernails and toenails, creating an abnormally round shape. The end of the finger may be warm, red or swollen, and the nail might be softer or curve downward at a sharper angle against the cuticle. Clubbed fingers are a strong indicator of heart or lung disease caused by chronically low oxygen levels. If you're also experiencing a chronic cough or shortness of breath, seek medical attention immediately."


Finger Numbness or Tingling

Acute pain in a women wrist.

Marchese says, "A pins and needles sensation in the fingers typically means there is associated nerve damage in that hand. Many conditions can cause numb fingers, including carpal tunnel, diabetes or autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The nerve may be pinched or compressed, as in carpal tunnel syndrome, or damaged from inflammation or a lack of blood flow. In rare cases, hand numbness could signify stroke or problems in the central nervous system. If you experience frequent hand numbness that does not resolve quickly, your doctor can order tests to confirm the cause." 


Stiff or Swollen Joints


According to Marchese, "Arthritis is the inflammation of joints in the body, and the hands are a common site for arthritis due to the number of joints involved. Arthritis that affects the cartilage between bones leaves the joint without support, causing bones to rub against and irritate each other. This type of arthritis is known as osteoarthritis, the most common form of degenerative bone disease. Your hands may become more painful with use due to stiffness and loss of movement in the wrist or the base of the fingers. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory process caused by immune cells attacking healthy tissue. Both types of arthritis tend to affect the same joints on both hands." 


Hand Tremors

violently shaking hands of a PD sufferer (Parkinson's disease), tremors of the wrist and hand joints are the main symptom of the disorder

"Shaking or tremors in the hands is an ambiguous condition that may signify severe disease or be caused by mild issues such as muscle fatigue," says Marchese. "Essential tremors are when your hands shake mildly when not at rest. These shakes can be annoying but often go away with time or rest. Essential tremors may be linked to specific genes, nutrition deficiencies or overuse. Unfortunately, hand tremors can indicate more severe nerve damage, such as Parkinson's Disease or Multiple Sclerosis. In Parkinson's, nerve cells in the brain degrade and cause an imbalance in neurotransmitters. In MS, the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells is damaged, leading to poor muscle communication. An overactive thyroid may also cause hand tremors as a result of increases in heart rate and metabolism, which may also correlate with trouble sleeping, headaches and light sensitivity. There are many causes of hand tremors, but if they impede your daily activities, you should seek medical care as soon as possible." 


Red, White and Blue Finger Discoloration

Laptop and senior woman's hands. Notebook pc on a desk

Marchese reveals, "White or blue fingers could indicate a lack of blood flow caused by cold or stress. If your fingers turn bright red, swollen or painful after becoming warm, it could signify Raynaud's disease. Raynaud's may occur without any other illness, but it is also linked with certain conditions, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease or some blood disorders. A serious condition known as pulmonary hypertension may also cause Raynaud's syndrome. The exact cause remains unknown, but it is likely due to a change in blood viscosity caused by changes in platelets, blood vessels or red blood cells. Risk factors for Raynaud's include smoking, autoimmune disease, injury or repetitive impact. Some people can tolerate Raynaud's disease by avoiding cold exposure or wearing gloves, but some symptoms, such as spasms in the fingers, can become especially painful if left untreated." 

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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