Could your hands be showing signs of underlying health conditions?

By Jane Garton

Changes in the way your hands look and feel can be symptoms of a range of illnesses.
Hand careWatch out for changes in your hands as it could be a symptom of a more serious illness

Hands are often the first part of you to show visible signs of ageing but they can also be a barometer of your general health, as well as holding clues to underlying health problems. 

"These clues can be a useful indication of subtle changes or in some cases more serious changes going on in the body," explains Dr Wendy Denning, of The Health Doctors private integrated medicine clinic.

Cold hands

What this could mean: Cold hands are usually a sign of poor circulation although they can be a symptom of Raynaud’s disease (see below) in women. "They can also be a sign of stress as the heart is pumping blood to other areas of body where its need is greater," says Dr Denning. Your hands may also be cold if you have low blood pressure or an under-active thyroid.

Trembling hands

What this could mean: "Most of our hands shake to some degree," says Dr Denning. But if the tremble is more than slight, it could mean you are suffering from what is known as an ‘essential tremor’, a neurological disorder that tends to run in families. It could also be a sign of Parkinson’s disease which also affects the nervous system, or an over-active thyroid. Anxiety and stress can also cause hands to shake, as can drinking strong coffee and too much alcohol.

Sweaty palms

What this could mean: Hot sweaty palms can be a sign of stress or an overactive thyroid, which tends to speed up your metabolism meaning you burn more calories and generate more heat. It can also be a symptom of hyperhidrosis, a condition otherwise known as excess sweating, which tends to run in families. Too much alcohol and stress can also make hands sweat.

Red palms

What this could mean: "One of the classic signs of liver damage, especially in the over 50 age group, is a reddening of the palms," explains Dr Denning. Called palmar erythema, this reddening usually affects the outer edge of the palms in a band from the wrist to the little finger. No one really knows the cause but the reddening is thought to be due to blood vessels dilating as a result of a change in the hormone balance caused by liver disease. Red palms can also be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis caused by the inflammation that is a major factor in the disease.

White, red or blue fingers

What this could mean: Fingers that turn white, blue and then red with pins and needles and numbness are a sign of Raynaud’s disease, a condition in which blood flow to the fingers is restricted. The exact cause is unknown but it often runs in families. It can also be associated with rheumatic conditions such as scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Read on for more symptoms of illness that are visible on your hands...

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.


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  • Kabir

    Posted: Saturday 11 May 2013

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