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Health Signs in Hands

7 Things Your Hands Say About Your Health

By , Caring.com senior editor
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They're one of the most important parts of our body when it comes to day-to-day activities; without them we couldn't cut vegetables, grip pliers, or text our friends. They're revealing, too: Not only do scars and age spots recount our personal history but mystics all the way back to prehistory have "read" our futures in their lines and whorls.

But what if your hands could say more about you than that? What if, looking down at your palms and the five digits attached to them, you could discover early signs of conditions or diseases you weren't aware of yet? "It used to be common for doctors to look at the hands for important clues to overall health," says endocrinologist Kenneth Blanchard of Newton, Massachusetts. "We need to get back to that, because hands can tell you a great deal about circulation, hormones, and thyroid function."

Here are seven important clues your hands can reveal about your overall health.

1. What Blotchy Red Palms Say About Your Health

In the short term, red palms might mean you gripped the shovel too hard when you planted tomatoes, hand-washed a few too many delicates, or grabbed the teakettle a few moments too soon. But if your palms remain reddened over a long period of time, this may be a condition called palmar erythema, which is a sign of liver disease, particularly of cirrhosis and nonalcoholic fatty liver. (One exception: If you're pregnant, red palms are normal, because increased blood flow causes redness in more than half of expecting women.)

Why? Inflammation of the liver gradually begins to impair its function, so it's no longer able to flush waste products out of the body as efficiently, Blanchard says. The result is an excess of circulating hormones, which in turn cause the blood vessels in the hands and feet to dilate, making them visible through the skin.

What to do: Get evaluated for other symptoms of liver disease, which include swollen legs and abdomen, prominent veins on the upper torso and abdomen, and fatigue. Show your doctor your hands and feet and ask for liver function tests. The most common tests for liver function are a bilirubin count and a liver enzyme count.