10 Surprising Conditions Your Hands Might Predict

Updated: Feb. 28, 2023

From finger length to grip strength, our hands can indicate risk factors for a number of surprising conditions.

Couple holding hands closeup

Finger length reveals: Arthritis risk

Women with ring fingers that are longer than their index fingers, typically a male trait, are twice as likely to have osteoarthritis in the knees, according to an Arthritis & Rheumatism study. Low estrogen levels may be a factor. The same finger feature has been linked to higher athletic ability and verbal aggression in both genders. In men, a longer ring finger (indicating an in-utero testosterone surge during the second trimester) is associated with having more children and better relationships with women, but a British Journal of Cancer study found a connection to a higher risk of prostate cancer. If you’re worried about other ways to keep your joints healthy, here are 8 things pain doctors do to never get arthritis.

open hands of elderly woman in front of dark background
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Shaky hands reveal: Parkinson’s disease

Trembling hands could be the result of something as simple as too much caffeine or a side effect of certain medications like asthma drugs and antidepressants. But it’s a good idea to see your doctor if the issue recurs. A tremor in just one hand can be the first symptom of Parkinson’s disease (about 80% of people with Parkinson’s have a tremor), or it can indicate essential tremor, a disorder that causes uncontrollable shaking and is treatable with therapy or medication. Learn how to spot 8 other easy-to-miss Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

extreme closeup of a male finger detail
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Nail color reveals: Kidney disease

When Indian researchers studied 100 patients with chronic kidney disease, they found that 36 percent had half-and-half nails, when the bottom of a nail is white and the top is brown. The nail condition may be caused by an increased concentration of certain hormones and chronic anemia, both traits of chronic kidney disease.  See your doctor right away if you notice half-and-half nails or a dark, vertical stripe beneath the nail bed. This can be hidden melanoma, a skin cancer. Don’t miss these 10 signs of skin cancer that aren’t on your skin.

grip - barbell bench press

Grip strength reveals: Heart health

A weak grip predicts a higher risk of heart attack or stroke and lower chances of survival, according to a Lancet study of nearly 140,000 adults in 17 countries. Grip strength was a better predictor of death than was blood pressure. Researchers say grip strength is a marker of overall muscle strength and fitness, and they recommend whole-body strength training and aerobic exercise to reduce heart disease risk. For motivation, read these 14 powerful benefits of exercise that don’t have to do with weight loss.

African-American holds open palm
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Sweaty palms reveal: Hyperhidrosis

Overly clammy hands may be a symptom of menopause or thyroid conditions, as well as hyperhidrosis, in which overactive sweat glands cause far more perspiration than necessary. Most people with the condition sweat from only one or two parts of the body, such as the armpits, palms, or feet. A doctor may prescribe a strong antiperspirant to decrease sweat production. Learn what other 9 things your sweat says about your health.

Closeup macro image of human fingerprint on a index finger as identification
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Fingerprints reveal: High blood pressure

When British researchers studied 139 fingerprints, they found that people with a whorl (spiral) pattern on one or more fingers were more likely to have high blood pressure than people with arches or loops. The more fingers with whorls a participant had, the higher his or her blood pressure was. Another study of 500 subjects found a similar connection between fingerprint patterns and high blood pressure. Fingertip whorls are markers of fetal development problems during certain stages of pregnancy, which may affect blood pressure later in life. Whether you have a whorl or not, don’t miss these 31 things you can do now to avoid high blood pressure.

Manicured nails
Vitaly Raduntsev/Shutterstock

Pale hands reveal: Anemia

There are many different forms of anemia including acute and chronic anemia which are linked to other health issues such as sickle cell disease and hypothyroidism. All forms, however, occur when a person doesn’t have enough healthy blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. Thus, common symptoms of anemia are pale skin, especially hand skin, and pale nail beds, the American Society of Hematology reports.

Clubbing: Signs of Liver Cell Failure .
Casa nayafana/Shutterstock

Clubbed nails reveal: Lung disease

Clubbed nails, that that curve down and have a large or bulging end of the finger, are associated with a number of different diseases. One is lung disease since clubbed fingers or nails could be caused by low oxygen in the blood, according to the Mayo Clinic. Nail clubbing is also linked to inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and AIDS.

hand with blotchy red spot

Blotchy, red palms reveal: Liver disease

Palmar erythema causes blotchy, red hands—a secondary symptom that could point to various diseases. According to the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, one health issue this symptom is linked to is liver diseases and 23 percent of those with liver cirrhosis develop palmar erythema. Some people might also experience slightly warmer hands from this condition as well. But warm hands can be a sign of good health, here are 50 signs you’re healthy, from every type of doctor.

swollen hand from wasp insect sting

Swollen knuckles reveal: High cholesterol

Hard, yellow bumps over the knuckles could be a sign of a genetic high cholesterol condition called familial hypercholesterolemia or FH. Xanthomas, or fat deposits found in the tendons, lump together in the hands, elbows, or knees, according to the FH Foundation. Here are more surprising health conditions your hands are trying to tell you.