How Your Hands Reveal Systemic Diseases

Whenever you see a thorough description of any systemic disease, which is, “One that affects a number of organs and tissues, or affects the body as a whole,” it will usually list a lot of the key indicators for diagnosing the disease in question. For example, we may read that disease of the liver can cause issues in the skin and the fingernails. This is often a surprising “symptom,” and yet many problems manifest in the hands.

Because our hands include so many different types of tissue – skin, nerves, bones, blood vessels, tendons, and ligaments among them, it is actually not a surprise that so many systemic diseases reveal themselves in the hands. Just consider the following issues and how they can begin to help a medical expert diagnose a deeper or broader condition:

Buergers disease – A disease that impacts the small arteries, it can often cut off the blood supply to the fingers. This can result in ulcerations, as well as gangrene.

Clubbed nails – Some endocrine diseases as well as heart and lung conditions can cause the fingernails to take on an uneven and clubbed growth pattern.

Diabetes – Because this is a disease of the endocrine system, it often has an impact on the ligaments and tendons of the body. The condition known as trigger finger locks the finger into a curved position (with the tip pointing towards the palm), and causes substantial pain and discomfort. It is often a key indicator that the individual also has diabetes.

Gout – We most commonly think of gout as something that manifests in the foot, particularly the “big toe,” but this condition can affect any digit. In the hands, the condition reveals itself in several ways, and may cause the skin to thin and drain, taking on an infected look. It can cause bone changes, and most often presents as “pincer nail”, which leads to an ingrown nail and nail deformity.

Kidney and liver diseases – The skin and nails are affected by many kinds of kidney or liver diseases, and one common issue is known as Terrys Nails in which the area under the nail loses its healthy pink coloration and becomes milky white.

Raynauds disease – Also called a phenomenon, this is a condition in which arteries in the fingers spasm, preventing blood flow and leading to a bluish discoloration of the fingertips. This is a problem for those with lupus and scleroderma, but is also related to rheumatoid arthritis as well. If left untreated, it can lead to ulcerations and further health problems.

Rheumatoid arthritis – Usually, the first signs of rheumatoid arthritis appear in the fingers and hands. Though this is a whole body condition that destroys the tendons, joints, and ligaments, it seems to always manifest strongly in the hands. It can cause tendon rupture and loss of mobility, and is a good indicator that arthritis is developing.

Clearly, there are many signs and symptoms that you can receive through your hands and fingers. Dont ignore any new problems with the hands, and if you notice something very unusual, do not hesitate to visit your hand specialist for an assessment of what is going on.


Wikipedia. Systemic disease. 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systemic_disease