In the vast world of medicine, there's a saying that the eyes are the window to the soul. But our hands might just be the window to our health. The intricate details, from the length of our fingers to the color of our palms, can reveal surprising insights about our overall well-being.
Imagine walking into a doctor's office and, instead of the usual stethoscope examination, the doctor asks to see your hands. It might seem unusual, but your hands can provide a plethora of information.
For instance, have you ever tried the thumb sign? By making a fist with your thumb inside, if the end of your thumb sticks out significantly from the other side of your hand (pinky side), you might have what's known as arachnodactyly, or "spider fingers." This could be an indicator of Marfan syndrome, a genetic condition that affects the body's connective tissue.
Having fingers that are unusually long is not a good sign either as it has also been associated with Marfan syndrome and serious complications like a spontaneous pneumothorax or even a life-threatening aortic rupture for unclear reasons.
The proportion of the length of your finger relative to other fingers also has implications for the risk of certain cancers. For instance, in a study of over 1,500 prostate cancer and 3,000 non-cancer cases, published in the esteemed British Journal of Cancer in 2011, men with index fingers longer than ring fingers were found to have a 33% reduced risk of prostate cancer.
But that's not all. Another intriguing test involves checking for hypermobility in the hand, such as checking if your index finger to pinky can be pushed backward until they are parallel with your forearm (Figure 1A) or if the tip of your finger can actually bend (Figure 1B).
Finger hypermobility is a feature of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a genetic condition that affects collagen, leading to stretchy skin and extremely loose joints. While some forms of EDS are benign, others, like vascular EDS, can have severe consequences, affecting blood vessels and organs.
Now, let's talk about the color of your palms. A red hue, especially around the base of your palm, is known as palmar erythema (Figure 2). While it could be hereditary or a result of pregnancy, it's also associated with conditions like liver cirrhosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
On the other hand (pun intended), consuming excessive amounts of tomatoes can lead to lycopinemia, turning your palms orange!
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be tested for by simply pressing the backs of your hands together (Figure 3). If this action results in tingling or numbers, chances are it is Carpal tunnel syndrome, a common neurological disorder that happens due to nerve compression at your wrist, which could lead to loss of control of fingers in worse cases.
And if you've ever experienced your fingers turning white, then blue, and finally red in the cold, you might be exhibiting signs of Raynaud's phenomenon, a condition that can be an early indicator of connective tissue diseases like Scleroderma, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects skin and internal organs.
Lastly, the joints in our hands can provide significant insights. If your fingertips and finger joints are chronically inflamed and red, it's a pattern of arthritis, such as psoriatic arthritis or osteoarthritis.
In conclusion, our hands are not just tools for interaction but also mirrors reflecting our health. While these tests and observations are fascinating, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional if you notice any abnormalities. After all, knowledge is power, and understanding the secrets our hands hold can be the first step in identifying disease, if any, early.