Health is in Your Hands: Digits Hearld Health Issues

Determining aspects of your health from a cursory observation of your hands sounds like something out of the realm of palm reading, but your hands can display several warning signs about your health and the condition of internal organs.

While these are not definitive diagnoses, paying close attention to signs detailed below about your hands and fingernails can lend phenomenal insight into your personal health and possibly alert yourself of future health problems.

Testosterone Levels and Cancer Risk

The 2011 study Hand pattern indicates prostate cancer risk compared the ring and index finger in over 4,500 British males. The researchers aimed to determine if the length of these two fingers correlated with the chance of obtaining prostate cancer later in life.

Human hands

In the study, males with index fingers longer than their ring finger appeared to have a 30 percent decreased risk of prostate cancer compared to their long ring finger counterparts. The length of an individual’s ring finger is determined by the amount of testosterone available in the womb—those with ring fingers longer than their index finger are exposed to higher levels of testosterone in utero.

Separate British studies suggested that the width and breadth of a person’s palm along with the the presence of a whirl fingerprint pattern were indicators of hypertension later in life.

What Do the Palms Say?

Palms that are consistently red are termed palmar erythema. This is rare, but it can be a sign of heavy drinking, as palmar erythema is often correlated with cirrhosis. But don’t go off accusing someone of drinking if their palms are red. This type of erythema could also be a sign of non-alcohol-induced liver problems.

Palmar erythema is actually a sign of a variety of medical conditions, including pregnancy, syphilis, along with hand, foot, and mouth disease, a disease which occurs often in children. If your kid turns up with red palms, go with the latter diagnosis before assuming he or she is drunk.

Fingernails (and Toenails) Tell a Tale

You can observe the effects of a variety of medical anomalies by paying attention to the shape and color of your fingernails and toenails and the nail bed lying underneath. Have you ever seen a tiny streak of red within in a nail? These tiny streaks that move across the nail bed as the nail grows could signify a heart valve infection. I know, it’s a big leap from tiny streak of red to a heart infection, but these streaks called splinter hemorrhages may occur due to damage to blood vessels or infinitesimally tiny clots in capillaries.

Green nails can be the sign of a bacterial infection, wherein a form of Pseudomonas has bored underneath the nail and reproduced. This sounds extremely gross, but it is easily treated. The green color appears due to a pigment, pyocyanin, released by the bacteria.

If your nails are white or yellow and covered in large, raised bumps, you might have onychomycosis. This fungal infections can show up from wearing closed, sweating-inducing footwear, improper sanitation during manicures and pedicures, or direct contact with another individual’s fungal infection.

Onychomycosisis a fungal infection that leads to a lifting of the nail from the nail bed, but this can be treated using a number of pharmaceuticals, with a two-month course of terbinafine or itraconazole often clearing up the fungal infection. The nail might be surgically removed in the process, leading to a slow but healthy growth period.

Brittle nails occur for a variety of reasons. Brittleness is often linked to deficiencies of zinc or iron in an individual’s diet or even  thyroid problem. Brittleness, however, is mostly likely just a result of aging.

Over-consumption of Salt

If your fingers are routinely swollen (Is your wedding ring clamping down on your finger like a vice?), it’s likely that you are eating a diet with more sodium than necessary. If you are consistently consuming 3 grams of sodium a day, your body will retain water in order to decrease the overall sodium concentration of the body, leading to local swelling. If your fingers start to get a little chubby in comparison to the rest of your body, consider decreasing your salt intake.

Image Sources:  Top, BigStock; Center; Nursing; Bottom, Evan Amos/Wikimedia Commons 

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