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An illustration shows hands being dried with a cloth, accompanied by the text "Your Hands & Your Health". In the bottom right corner, there is an image of almonds with the number "10" above it and the word "almonds" below, highlighting key health indicators.

What Your Hands Can Tell You About Your Health

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Dr. Siobhan Deshauer tells us what our hands say about our health—she’s not practicing palmistry though; she’s a rheumatologist, and everything here is about clinical signs of health/disease.

The signs include…

“Spider fingers” (which your writer here has; I always look like I’m ready to cast a spell of some kind), and that’s really the medical name, or arachnodactyly for those who like to get Greek about it. It’s about elongated digits. Elongated other bones too, typically, but the hands are where it’s most noticeable.

The tests:

  • Make a fist with your thumb inside (the way you were told never to punch); does your thumb poke out the side notably past the edge of your hand, unassisted (i.e., don’t poke it, just let it rest where it goes to naturally)?
  • Take hold of one of your wrists with the fingers of the other hand, wrapping them around. If they reach, that’s normal; if there’s a notable overlap, we’re in Spidey-territory now.

If both of those are positive results for you, Dr. Deshauer recommends getting a genetic test to see if you have Marfan syndrome, because…

Arachnodactyly often comes from a genetic condition called Marfan syndrome, and as well as the elongated digits of arachnodactyly, Marfan syndrome affects the elastic fibers of the body, and comes with the trade-off of an increased risk of assorted kinds of sudden death (if something goes “ping” where it shouldn’t, like the heart or lungs).

But it can also come from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome!

EDS is characterized by hypermobility of joints, meaning that they are easily flexed past the normal human limit, and/but also easily dislocated.

The tests:

  • Put your hand flat on a surface, and using your other hand, see how far back your fingers will bend (without discomfort, please); do they go further than 90°?
  • Can you touch your thumb to your wrist* (on the same side?)

*She says “wrist”; for this arachnodactylic writer here it’s halfway down my forearm, but you get the idea

For many people this is a mere quirk and inconvenience, for others it can be more serious and a cause of eventual chronic pain, and for a few, it can be very serious and come with cardiovascular problems (similar to the Marfan syndrome issues above). This latter is usually diagnosed early in life, though, such as when a child comes in with an aneurysm, or there’s a family history of it. Another thing to watch out for!

Check out the video for more information on these, as well as what our fingerprints can mean, indicators of diabetes (specifically, a test for diabetic cheiroarthropathy that you can do at home, like the tests above), carpal tunnel syndrome, Raynaud phenomenon, and more!

She covers 10 main medical conditions in total:

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Take care!

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