We know you’re sick when you’re coughing, sneezing, or wiping your running nose. These are the obvious symptoms that we need to take medicine or get some rest to get better.
But did you know that there are other ways—more subtle ways—that our body tells us about whether we’re in good or bad health? From your hair growth to your bowel movements (seriously), every part of your body is affected by your health.
One of those parts are your hands. Those things that help you pick things up, type on a computer, turn on your coffee maker? They’re huge indicators of how your health is doing.
Here are 9 things to look out for in regards to your hands—and what they could mean for your health.
Pins and needles
Ever experience tingling and numbness in your hands? It’s likely a sign of carpal tunnel. If it really bothers you, your doctor may recommend wearing a split or surgery if it’s extreme. However, “Any sudden onset of numbness or weakness (of the arms or hands) should always make someone worried about potential stroke,” Matthew Barrett, MD, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Virginia Health System in North Carolina. If that’s the case, call 911.
Ever notice your hands go blue or even lose their color altogether when they’re cold? This could be a sign of a condition called Raynaud’s, which can make your fingers feel numb, cold, or painful. Don’t worry, as alarming as this might be, “It’s not dangerous, it’s just irritating,” says Kelly Weselman, MD, rheumatologist with WellStar Rheumatology in Georgia. See your doctor if this happens to you.
Ever have your fingers swell up like a balloon? This might just mean you need to cu down on the sodium, which can cause inflammation. Salt overload makes the kidney’s job to filter blood and take out unwanted fluids harder, causing fluids to accumulate in certain areas like your hands.
Red scales and bumps
If you ever see red scales or bumps filled with pus show up on your skin, this is likely caused by psoriasis. “Psoriasis on the hands can look like red, scaly, raised plaques and can sometimes include pustules—white pus bumps—on the palms,” says Salma Faghri de la Feld, MD, assistant professor in the department of dermatology at Emory University in Georgia. Definitely pay a visit to your doctor so they can properly diagnose you.
Everyone’s hands shake a little bit, but it can get worse if you’re experiencing things like sleep deprivation, too much caffeine, or on a certain medication that causes shakiness as a side effect. However, this could also be the sign of a more serious condition. “If combined with slowness of movement and stiffness in the limb affected by the tremor, it could be consistent with Parkinson’s disease,” says Dr. Barrett.
Purple finger nodules
Red or purple bumps on your finger tips? “It’s very specific to endocarditis,” says Anne Albers, MD, a cardiologist with OhioHealth Heart & Vascular Physicians in Columbus. Endocarditis is a bacterial infection of the heart valves, which can also cause bleeding under the skin of the palms. Make an appointment with your doctor if you’re experiencing this.
“During the physical exam for patients, we definitely pay attention to someone’s hand grip,” says Dr. Albers. “We associate it with frailty.” In addition, weak grip strength has been linked to an increased risk in heart disease, according to a 2016 review in the International Journal of Cardiology.
This usually occurs in the colder months as low humidity draws moisture out of the skin. This could also be a sign of frequently washing your hands, as it can strip the natural oils form our skin. Nothing serious here—just make sure to lotion up so the dryness doesn’t irritate you!
This means you have one pesky finger that stays in the position you put it in and doesn’t let you bend or straighten it. This means the tendon in your finger became inflamed and curbs the tendon from being able to move. This is most common in people with arthritis, thyroid disease, and diabetes.
Do you have any of these hand symptoms?