Our hands say a lot about the general state of health, and what you take for a small, innocuous particularity can possibly inform your doctor about a sometimes serious problem. Dr. Gérald Kierzek, emergency physician and medical director of TipsForWomens, gives us these six pieces of information that he sometimes detects from the handshake.
Skin condition, movements, pain… On our hands, every little detail counts and can provide information on a patient’s state of health. A detail that doctors know well: “Looking at the hands is part of the clinical examination and inspection, which, together with the history (questioning) and auscultation, allows us to identify a health problem,” explains Dr Gérald Kierzek, medical director of TipsForWomens. And sometimes the smallest sign can help guide a diagnosis. Here are 6 health problems that are seen on the hands.
Not surprisingly, by looking at a hand, a doctor can detect arthritis, particularly through a deformation of the fingers or wrist. In the same way, a “traumatized” attitude (a person holding their wrist for example) can suggest a fracture.
A dermatological problem
The hands are also the site of anything related to infection or dermatological discomfort. It is by observing the hands that the doctor can conclude that there is excessive sweating, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis or even scabies which causes furrows between the fingers.
A blood circulation problem can also be seen in the fingertips. “Cold hands can indicate a circulation problem such as Raynaud’s syndrome for example. (a temporary disorder of blood circulation, mainly in the fingers). Cyanosis in the hands (which translates to blue hands) evokes also a problem of oxygenation and peripheral circulation.”
The presence of a more or less serious infection
Obviously, the presence of warts, herpes or even fungus on the skin of the hands can indicate an ongoing infection or fungal infection that needs to be treated. “But there are also what we call ‘Osler’s whitlows’, small purplish-blue lesions on the pads of the fingers which are a sign of infective endocarditis, une infection of the endocardium, in the heart, caused by bacteria (usually streptococci or staphylococci) or fungi.
A sign of alcoholism
Certain frozen signs on the hands can also suggest an alcoholism problem in the patient. “This includes, for example, red palmar erythrosis on the palms of the hands, particularly under the base of the thumb, which can be seen in alcoholic people.”
Dupuytren’s disease, which corresponds to a retraction of the palmar sheath, when the tendon retracts and an irreducible flexion of a finger is observed, is also a sign of alcoholism.
Finally, a hand that moves without will, and a drop in muscle strength can suggest a neurological damage, such as Parkinson’s disease for the doctor. Signs that we must then invest more to reach a diagnosis and consider treatment.