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Can My Hands Tell Me about Liver Problems?

June 10, 2022
David Parker, Esq.
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David Parker, White Plains and New City NY Estate Planning Attorney
David Parker, Esq.
David Parker is an attorney who specializes in Estate Planning and Elder Law and has been practicing law for 30 years. Be it Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies, or Medicaid Planning, David provides comprehensive and caring counsel for seniors and their families. A large portion of David’s practice is asset protection strategies so that families do not lose their hard earned savings to nursing home care costs. He also handles probate administration for the settlement of estates.
Many of us take our hands for granted. We use them all day yet tend to overlook or dismiss issues with our hands as problems we hope will simply go away on their own. However, your hands—including the palms, fingers, and nails—can contain clues to your overall health, and certain signs may mean that one of your vital organs is in real danger.

Best Life’s recent article entitled “5 Ways Your Hands Are Telling You That Your Liver's in Trouble” tells us about the symptoms to look for in our hands, and what they could mean for your liver.

Red palms. If your palms have developed a red rash and you don't know why, it could be palmar erythema, or "liver palms"—a symptom of liver disease. The redness typically appears on the lower palms. However, it can extend up to the fingers and occurs from the dilation of surface blood vessels in the hands due to impaired liver function. The redness also blanches and feels slightly warm.

Clubbed fingers. This is a balloon-like swelling of the fingertips. Clubbing is often caused by liver disease or cirrhosis. It’s linked to excessive alcohol consumption. Other symptoms of clubbing that signal danger are the softening of the nail beds, reddening and warmth in the fingers and downward-curving fingernails.

Tremors. If you've suddenly started experiencing involuntary jerking movements in your hands, don't ignore them. These muscle contractions could signal asterixis, which is a neurological symptom of chronic liver disease that causes tremors in the hands. This symptom is often called "liver flap," due to the flapping tremor associated with such disease.

When it is diseased, the liver can’t effectively filter toxins from the blood. As a result, they accumulate in the bloodstream and move to the brain, where they can impair brain function and cause neurological motor control issues in the hands and wrists. This condition is known as hepatic encephalopathy (HE). 70% of those with cirrhosis develop HE symptoms. See your physician if you experience tremors in your hands to determine if you have an underlying condition.

Pale, white fingernails. This is an opaque appearance called "Terry's nails." It’s a common symptom of severe underlying medical conditions, such as liver disease and cirrhosis. Whitening of the nail bed can be a sign of liver failure, diabetes, heart failure, thyroid abnormalities, or malnutrition.

"Spoon" fingernails. Also known as koilonychia, this involves "spooning" of the fingernails, where the edges are raised and scooped outward like a spoon. Spooning of your fingernails could be a sign of hemochromatosis, a severe liver disorder that causes excess iron absorption from food.

When it comes to resolving symptoms in your hands, treatment of the underlying liver issue will significantly improve or completely resolve the symptoms. With a resolution of the disease, the majority of the hand abnormalities will resolve.

If you see any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately to check for liver disease and if treatment is required.

Reference: Best Life (May 17, 2022) “5 Ways Your Hands Are Telling You That Your Liver's in Trouble”


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