1. Discoloured nails
“Our nails should be a healthy, pinkish colour but if yours have a greenish/yellow tinge then you probably have a fungal infection and should ask your doctor for an antifungal treatment.
"Yellow nails, however, can be a sign that someone has lung disease, so these shouldn’t be ignored.”
In addition, brown marks below the nail line can indicate that there is a suspicious mole underneath and pitted-looking nails, where the normally smooth surface of the fingernail has several small dents on it, are normally associated with psoriasis.
2. ‘Spoon-shaped’ nails
A healthy nail should be slightly raised in the middle and then curve down a bit at the tip.
So if your nail looks the exact opposite to this, then it should send alarm bells ringing.
“This spoon-shaped nail is a symptom of iron deficiency anaemia,” says Tabi Leslie.
This can be corrected with iron supplements, so if you are worried see your doctor for a blood test.
Also, make sure you eat plenty of red meat and dark green vegetables.
“Nail clubbing, where the nail takes on a ball-like shape, is even more worrying . This can indicate an internal disease such as lung cancer or heart problems.
3. Lumps on the fingers
The first indication that you might have osteoarthritis is usually some small lumps close to the nail beds.
“These happen because the disease causes a loss of joint space, so the joints then broaden out and new bone starts to form,” says consultant orthopaedic hand surgeon, Mike Hayton.
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“This can be very painful yet it is very common. In my experience around half of women aged over 50 have some signs of osteoarthritis, which is just general wear and tear of the joints.”
Sadly there is no cure for the condition but if you are experiencing a great deal of pain, there may be surgical options available to you.
4. Trembling hands
Everyone’s hands shake to some degree but if yours tremble noticeably then it may be an early warning sign that you are developing Parkinson’s disease, which affects the nervous system.
“But people use their hands for so many different things that this is probably why many people notice it here first.”
Other factors that could be to blame for shaky hands include stress and anxiety or drinking too much alcohol or coffee.
You could also have an ‘essential tremor’ which is an inherited neurological condition.
5. Dry skin
“Very dry skin can be a sign of an under-active thyroid, “ says Tabi Leslie.
“This causes the skin to lose moisture and can also mean that sufferers are more susceptible to sensitivity from soaps and other products.”
Hands also tend to lose moisture after the menopause because the skin dries out when a women’s oestrogen level drops.
Check with your doctor if you think you may have a thyroid problem but otherwise just ensure that you use a rich moisturiser on your hands and use gloves for washing up.
6. Thickening of the palm
Small, painless lumps on the hand can show that you are about to develop Dupuytren’s contracture, where a cord of tissue pulls the finger into the palm.
“Dupuytren’s will start with a thickening of the palm, where the fibrous tissue on the front of hand is starting to contract.”
Mr Hayton recommends that you see your GP as soon as you notice any change in the texture of the front of your hand but if you think you might already be suffering from Dupuytren’s contracture you can try the ‘table top test’.
Can you lay your palms flat on a table? If not, then you may require surgery or specialist enzyme treatment.
7. Red palms
“For centuries doctors have associated a reddening of the palm with liver disorders, in particular cirrhosis,” says Dr Andrew Holt, consultant in liver diseases.
“Liver palm, or palmar erythema, is thought to be caused by blood vessels which are dilating in response to the hormone imbalance caused by the damage to the liver.”
The reddening occurs on the outer edge of the wrist, from the base of the thumb, along the wrist to the little finger.
Other signs are a whitening of the nails, caused by the protein deficiency typical in liver disease, and jaundiced skin.
Red palms can also be a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders and sometimes pregnancy, so if you are worried see a GP.
8. Sweaty palms
We all feel our palms heat up when we are nervous or anxious, but if this is happening on a more regular basis then it could be that your thyroid is to blame.
“An over-active thyroid causes an increase in your metabolic rate,” explains Tabi Leslie.
“This means you burn more calories and sweat more as your body temperature increases.”
Sufferers may also find they are experiencing unexplained weight loss, a constant feeling of nervous energy and a swelling of the thyroid gland in the throat.
An overactive thyroid can be treated with medication so see your GP if you are worried.
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