What Your Hands Say about You


By: , – Christine Mattheis, Family Circle
  :  20 comments   :  33,980 Views

Important info about your overall health may literally be at your fingertips. We decode pale nails, puffy fingers, and more.


Puffiness: Salty snacks, antibiotics, hot weather and PMS can all bring on bloat. Swelling that doesn't subside after a few days of drinking plenty of fluids, however, could be a sign of a kidney, liver, thyroid or heart problem, so see your doctor.
Blue tips: About 5% of the population (mostly women) has Raynaud's disease, a condition brought on by stress or cold temperatures that causes the tips of the fingers, ears, nose or toes to get cold, numb and bluish. Usually it's just a nuisance, but discuss with your doctor if symptoms last more than a half hour. 

Breakage: Nails dry out and weaken naturally with age. But if they crack, peel and break easily, it could also be a sign of B-vitamin deficiency. Up your intake of fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy and leafy green vegetables.

Paleness: The skin underneath nails should be light pink (aside from the small half-moons above cuticles). If it's white, you may have iron-deficiency anemia. Fill up on iron-rich foods like spinach, lean red meat and beans, and show your doctor at your next visit.

Black mark: A dark line or spot underneath one nail may be a bruise, but if it doesn't disappear in a few days, err on the side of caution and make an appointment with a dermatologist to rule out the possibility of melanoma.
White spots: No need to worry about a small splotch on an otherwise healthy-looking fingernail. These appear when you injure the root. Don't be surprised if you can't remember how it happened—nails grow just one-tenth of an inch per month.


Orange/yellow tint: Ginger-hued hands are no cause for concern—in fact, they're a sign you have a diet rich in veggies full of the pigment carotene, like carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash.

Redness: Pinkish palms that itch and burn may be caused by eczema, a very common skin ailment. Water, household cleaners and harsh soaps aggravate it, so wear gloves when you clean and moisturize your hands with a fragrance-free lotion after washing.

Work the kinks out of your hands and wrists with these tips from Frank Lipman, M.D., founder of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City.
1.  Lift your left arm out in front of you. Using your right hand, pull the fingers of your left hand backward toward your forearm until you feel a stretch. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat with your other hand.

2.  Follow step 1, but instead of pulling your fingers upward, bend your hand down and pull your palm toward your forearm.

3.  For about 10 seconds, knead your right thumb and middle finger into the fleshy part of your left hand between the thumb and index finger. Then treat other tender areas. When finished, massage your other hand the same way.
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  • 20
    I have taken my hands for granted as long as they didn't bother me. I will look at them and see what I see now. - 5/6/2017   10:32:44 AM
  • KAB7801
    I have done the hand exercises. Also good for arthritis, if you have it - 5/22/2013   7:08:56 PM
  • 18
    I agree with Maveric, untill you have suffered from Raynaud's you should NEVER dismiss it as an annoyance! I started with symptoms during my last pregnancy (he is now 6mos) and it even affected breastfeeding because you can also have symptoms of it in your nipples. It is a hateful disease! Let alone the weird looks you get from people when you wear gloves when its 'not cold' - 4/23/2013   9:17:59 PM
  • 17
    Very interesting info. Thanks. - 4/20/2013   8:25:10 PM
  • 16
    @RUTHXG Thanks for the info! I have a vertical split on the underside of a nail; whenever the nail grows out even a bit it splits at the top and usually winds up breaking back down to the cuticle. I'll have to try this. - 4/19/2013   10:19:54 AM
  • 15
    That comment felt insensitive to people that suffer with Raynaud's disease, It is obvious that the author does not suffer from it. I do. At first it was 'annoying', but then it progressed over time to an extremely painful condition I deal with daily. I have nerve damage in a few of my fingertips because of this condition. It is much more than just annoying to someone that has to live with it. - 4/18/2013   10:27:37 PM
  • 14
    I am shocked that there is no mention of clubbing or other symptoms of serious disease. - 4/18/2013   9:32:49 PM
    Thanks for the info - 4/18/2013   8:38:12 PM
  • 12
    thanks - 4/18/2013   8:42:16 AM
  • 11
    If your nails split vertically, you can probably fix it by taking biotin (a vitamin). I take the CVS-brand "Hand Skin Nails" multivitamin, which includes biotin, & it allowed a chronic split in my right thumbnail to close up. - 4/17/2013   10:26:36 PM
    Now here's some handy news we can use! I'll know where to point the finger next time. - 4/17/2013   6:29:43 PM
    I think my split & broken nails are saying I spend a lot of time exercising in the pool. Better than what my rear would say if I spent all that time sitting on it! - 4/17/2013   11:52:28 AM
  • 8
    My poor hands are so dry! It's embarrassing really...they are always scratchy and my skin gets cracked. I wear gloves for a while to do dishes and things and then it gets tiring and I get lazy and don't wear them. Lately I've been using vasoline on my hands at night and it's helping. I don't have as much of a problem with them during the summer when it's more humid. - 4/17/2013   10:40:14 AM
  • LJMILLS099
    Thanks for the post. i'm trying out the hand exercises:) - 4/17/2013   12:36:46 AM
  • 6
    I've noticed how healthy and strong my nails have been since choosing to eat better. No acrylics for this girl! : ) - 4/16/2013   11:58:23 AM
  • 5
    Nails that curl under (more than normally) at the ends are an indication of iron deficiency. Mine were doing this for more than a year before I became aware of the deficiency after it was severe, so I wish I had known this. - 4/16/2013   11:58:04 AM
  • 4
    I get a manicure every two weeks to try to keep my hands from aging so quickly. A good moisturizing lotion every evening keeps them soft. - 4/16/2013   11:04:56 AM
  • RENATA144
    Thank you for this great health info ! - 4/16/2013   10:34:28 AM
  • 2
    I have the orange palms and even the soles of my feet are orange thanks to my new addiction to carrots! - 4/16/2013   9:43:19 AM
    This is very interesting Thank you - 4/16/2013   6:47:53 AM

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