Apart from when you’re painting your fingernails, giving your hands a wash or slipping on a ring or two, how often do you take a really good look at your hands? Probably not that often. Surprisingly though, hands can be an enlightening window to your health and wellbeing.
Suffer from clammy hands? Excessively hot and sweaty palms can be a sign of stress – nerves are a trigger – or more seriously, a thyroid problem. An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) speeds up your metabolism meaning your body generates more heat.
Swollen fingers are a sign of fluid retention and can be caused by a high sodium diet. Cutting down on processed foods that are loaded with salt and choosing water-rich foods such as fruit and veg will help rid the body of excess fluid.
If you find your fingertips are turning white or blue, you may be suffering from Raynaud’s syndrome, which causes pain, tingling and numbness of the fingers. Ouch. It's linked to poor circulation and can be helped by keeping warm, exercising regularly and reducing stress levels, says the NHS.
Slightly random, but take a look at your finger length for a second. Researchers at the University of Nottingham found that people with an index finger shorter than their ring finger have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis – the most common form of arthritis.
If you pinch the skin on the back of your hand, what happens? If it snaps back straight away, all good. If it remains pinched before it slowly flattens again, it’s likely you’re dehydrated. Staying hydrated is important for your body to function properly so don’t wait until you’re parched with crinkly hand skin, sip water slowly throughout the day.
We all take good care of our faces, moisturising twice a day and slapping on the SPF, but what about our poor, neglected hands? They don’t get nearly as much love. The backs of hands are subjected to either cold weather or sun exposure all year round which can result in cracked, dry skin that gets sore and itchy if it's not looked after. Use sun protection out and about and lashings of moisturiser throughout the day. We love the organic NAOBAY Orange Juice Hand Cream from The Pink Shop – a citrus-infused blend of shea butter, aloe, sweet almond oil, avocado oil and skin-soothing chamomile to deeply nourish skin and leave hands feeling soft and supple.
If you press down on your fingernails and they stay white for more than a minute, or always look pale, you could be anaemic. Anaemia can be caused by an iron deficiency due to heavy or long periods, so get your blood levels checked out by your doctor and stock up on iron-rich foods such as red meat, leafy greens and nuts.
Weak, delicate nails are not just annoying, they can indicate a zinc deficiency. Eating lamb, spinach, pumpkin seeds and cashew nuts can boost your zinc levels. Soft and bendy nails (yup, equally annoying) may mean you’re lacking in calcium or protein.
You may sometimes notice ridges on your nails, too, but the direction of them is super-important. Vertical lines or ridges are common and are generally just associated with ageing – almost like wrinkles. If you spot horizontal ridges however you should hotfoot it to the GP to rule out anything more sinister as they can sometimes indicate an underlying health problem.