What Your Hands Are Trying to Tell You: Common Hand Ailments

This article was originally written for a client

Our hands might arguably be one of the hardest working and most vulnerable body parts, and boy do we put them through the ringer.  Not only do we put them through the ringer, but we neglect them terribly, like all those household chores we haven’t done yet. In doing so, we invite common hand ailments to manifest on them. Time to listen to what your hands are trying to tell you through these common hands ailments, and get your meaty hooks back in action.

Dry, Cracked Hands

This is a pretty common hand ailment. Dry hands are typically scaly and rough to the touch, particularly on the backside of your hands as your natural oils don’t typically congregate there. Rub the backside of your hand on your cheek. If your hands are dry,


it’ll feel as though you’re rubbing a piece of paper on your cheek. If they’re exceptionally dry, it’ll feel like you’re rubbing dry terry cloth over it. Cracked hands are the extreme. Skin cracks in hands occur when your hands are so dry that the skin actually loses is oils and moisture, become dry and hard, and cracks when stretched often accompanied by pain and bleeding. Here’s how you can treat and prevent both dry hands and cracked


  • Wash hands very gently. Washing rinses away your skin’s natural oils which are pertinent in retaining moisture. It’s okay to wash your hands, but do it gently without over-scrubbing. Use warm water, and be sure to wash out the cracks as they’re basically an open-wound.
  • After washing, don’t put lotion on cracked hands! That can actually make matters worse, as lotion is very painful when it gets into open wounds. Before applying lotion to your hands, put petroleum jelly or ointment on your cracks and cover them with a Band-Aid. After which, use a thick moisturizing cream to moisturize the rest of your hands. Here are the best suggestions from Wikihow:
    • Drugstore lotions often contain ingredients like alcohol and other chemicals that can actually make matters worse.
    • Look for products that contain pure emollients and humectants, which hydrate and protect the skin:
      • Lanolin, which keeps sheep comfy ‘outside’ in the ‘rain and snow’ all winter, is an excellent product for healing cracks.
      • Jojoba oilclosely mimics the skin’s natural oils. Look for products that list it as one of the main ingredients.
      • Coconut oil and shea butterare both excellent products for protecting the skin.
      • Petroleum jellycan protect the skin by forming a seal that doesn’t allow moisture to escape.

Prevention of dry, cracked hands is easy! Simply moisturize them often, and wear gloves when appropriate. The cause of dry, cracked hands is likely the exposure to the elements such as harsh cold, dry heat, or working around dust.

Cold, Clammy, Sweaty Hands

This is obviously the complete opposite of dry, cracked hands. If your hands are typically cold, clammy (meaning unpleasantly damp, sticky or slimy) or there is an abundance of sweat in the palms of your hands, it could be a sign of stress or anxiety. In rare cases, it’s a sign of a hyperhidrosis. This is a condition that causes excess sweating in the hands, feet, and armpits. If you have excess sweating here, to the point of hindrance of your daily activities, go get it checked out. Otherwise, you’re probably fine, you just have temporary poor circulation to your hands either because of repetitive motions or you’re nervous. Don’t sweat it. Here’s how you can treat cold, clammy, or sweaty hands:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap to remove the excess sweat and oils. The warm water will feel hot on the fingers/areas where you have a lack of circulation. Hold the warm water over this area for a little bit to warm it up and jump start the blood flow to this area. While doing so, move or flick your finger to also help move the blood through this area.
  • Time to deal with your stress or nerves! The state of your hands is your nerves, stress, or anxiety manifesting on your physical surface. Since you have a nice quiet moment in the bathroom, take a couple deep breaths and let them out slowly. Close your eyes and picture yourself smiling, happy, dancing, and feeling free from your stress and nerves. Picture yourself smiling and That will carry over onto your current emotional state and you’ll feel better. Trust me!

Hangnails and Flaky Nails


Hangnails are pesky and can literally hurt worse that a breakup if you bite and pull them to try and remove them. They are very common and are typically caused by having those dry hands we already talked about. They can also be caused by not clipping nails correctly, or from excessive use of nail polish remover and other chemicals that dry out or harm your skin. Prevent hangnails by moisturizing regularly and by wearing hand protection when working, cleaning, or doing anything that can dry out your skin, and for the love of gawd don’t bite the skin around your nails! You’ll cause a bleeding and pain worse than medieval torture! Now, flaky nails are different story. Brittle, flaky, ordiscolored fingernails is definitely a message your hands and body are trying to tell you. Here’s what the message might be:

  • Dry, brittle and flaky nails almost always accompany the over-use of cosmetic products such as nail polish remover, nail polish, and other beauty products on your nails. You have to bear in mind that a lot of these products have chemicals that may cause your nails to look fabulous, but are secretly sucking the nutrients out of your nail beds. Between treatments, let your nail beds breath by letting them turn back to their natural pink hue. They need a little r & r.
  • If you don’t use acetone, nail polish, or other cosmetic products on your nails, your brittle, flaky or discolored nails could mean a couple of things, all of which you should seek answers too, as your body is trying to tell you something about it such as:
    • A lack of important vitamins and minerals in your diet. Specifically, you could be lacking Zinc, Iron, or Protein according to com.
    • It could also mean something more serious such as hyperthyroidism. Don’t get worried, just go have a check-up done so your doctor can tell you what it is and give you the peace of mind. Your body is communicating that something needs to be addressed, seek a medical professional to help you found out what it is.


That word is so ugly, even reading it in your head just sounds so unpleasant. And low Picture6and behold, it means something incredibly unpleasant too! Warts of any kind are a virus that has somehow gotten past the first layer of skin, and therefore causes a mutation in the growth of your skin cells. You’ll know when you have a wart, it basically looks like a little bubble on your hand with a cauliflower looking exterior. They aren’t typically red, it kind of just looks like a cluster of odd skin growth. You have a wart because you touched something that someone with a wart touched, and you picked up the virus on your hands. It’s incredibly common and nothing to be ashamed of, but it should be treated ASAP as it is a virus and can spread to other parts of your body in addition to spreading to other people. Here’s how to treat a wart:

  • It’s very easy, just go to the local drugstore and buy wart remover over the counter and read the directions on how to treat it yourself. If you have more than one wart and more just seem to be popping up, head to your doctor’s office. They can also treat your warts using the same method as the drugstore treatment but with more intensity. If your wart is huge, unsightly, and there are more than one, consider going to the doc versus trying to treat them yourselves, especially if they are on the bottom of your feet. Warts and grow back if the virus wasn’t completely “killed” during treatment.
  • To prevent warts, keep your hands washed, and keep hand sanitizer with you. Use it particularly after touching railings, door handles, and money.


Swollen Hands

Pretty self-explanatory, your hands are inflamed and appear larger than they usually are. Healthgrades.com states that it’s a sign of fluid If it lasts a short period of time and was onset by a certain trigger like manual labor or exercise, then just wait it out for a few hours and give them a break from the activity you’re doing. However, prolonged periods of swelling, redness, pain or warmth can be a sign of something serious and your body is trying to communicate that with you. Hit up your doc and get to the bottom of it promptly.

Restless Hands

You’re fidgety, you have a short attention span, you’re bored, you’re nervous the list could go on and on. Most of us are fidgety, get a stress ball and try not to be distracting if you’re around other people. Chances are, they have a short attention span (most adults have an average attention span of 8 minutes) and are also easily distracted. Break the norm!

Bottom line- your hands are important in completing just about every daily task you have and therefore should also have prominence in the upkeep of your health. Wear gloves and other PPE when doing your work, moisturize, and always listen to your body no matter what! It tells you things about what’s going on on the inside that you need to consciously address. Be well, and stay hand-some 😉

Mikaela Delia is the blog editor for Atlantic Training– a leading seller of workplace safety training DVD’s and online safety training.



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