A COUGH, temperature and loss of taste are ingrained in our minds as symptoms of Covid.
But now experts believe our hands could hold clues as to whether we have had the virus.
Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London, is the brains behind the Zoe tracking app that records Covid symptoms.
He recently warned of a new phenomenon called “Covid nails” that is cropping up again and again.
Prof Tim tweeted: “Covid nails are increasingly being recognised as the nails recover after infection and the growth recovers leaving a clear line.
“It can occur without skin rashes and appears harmless.”
But Covid is not the only reason to take a closer look at our hands — as they can help diagnose a host of health conditions.
Birmingham GP Dr Thuva Amuthan told Fab Daily: “A thorough medical examination starts with the hands as they can show a variety of conditions, helping your doctor diagnose you.”
In 2014, 38-year-old property manager Jo Perkins, from Wembury, Plymouth, started to notice she could not do everyday tasks, such as open jars or put her deodorant on.
‘I COULDN’T DO UP ZIPS’
But she had no idea her weak grip could be a warning sign of a chronic and agonising condition.
She explained: “What started with weakness ended up being pain in my hands. I couldn’t even do up zips or buttons.
“But it was when I was forced to balance my deodorant on the fireplace and use my bodyweight to press it down that I realised how bad it was.”
Jo went to see her GP, who referred her to a specialist.
Six months later, the mum of one was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis — a condition where the immune system attacks healthy cells causing inflammation and pain.
“I didn’t know anything about rheumatoid arthritis, let alone the fact that grip strength is one of the symptoms,” she told Fab Daily.
“I was worried I was suffering from fibromyalgia or lupus.”
I didn’t know anything about rheumatoid arthritis, let alone the fact that grip strength is one of the symptoms
Jo was initially prescribed medication, but suffered with side- effects and was warned it could leave her unable to conceive.
“Fortunately, the sickness meant I was taken off it and I had my son Freddie in 2017,” she says.
“While I was pregnant and breastfeeding him, my hormones helped keep the condition in check.
“In 2019, I was put on a very low dose of chemotherapy, which I have twice a year now.
“It keeps my condition under control but my life isn’t anything like it used to be.”
Keep a check on your health with our handy guide to spotting the signs of heart infections, dementia, lung cancer and more . . .
Red and purple lumps or spots: Heart infection
RASHES or discolouration on the hands don’t just signal skin problems, they can be an early sign of heart failure or stroke.
If you spot red or purple lumps or marks, it’s worth speaking to your doctor as it can signal a heart infection called endocarditis.
“Endocarditis is an infection of the valves and lining of the heart, which is treated with antibiotics,” Dr Amuthan explained.
“Red-purple raised painful lumps that are typically found on fingers and toes are known as Osler’s nodes, and are a rare skin sign of bacterial endocarditis.
“Janeway lesions, also rare, are not painful but are found on the palms and soles, and are thought to be due to bleeding under the skin.
“If you have persistent fever, history of heart disease and get these symptoms, it’s best to get them checked.”
Left untreated, endocarditis can cause heart failure and stroke.
Grip strength: Alzheimer’s
AS well as rheumatoid arthritis, a weak grip can also mean you’re at greater risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Experts at the University of Dakota found every 5kg reduction in grip strength increases risk of cognitive decline by 18 per cent.
Dr Amuthan said: “Reduced grip strength is being studied for use as a marker due to its association with dementia. No one’s quite sure how the correlation works but more research is being done.”
If, like Jo, you notice you can’t do everyday tasks like opening jars, speak to your GP.
PROF Tim Spector has discovered that people recovering from Covid can spot a distinctive clear line as their nails grow out.
He said the phenomenon can occur without other rarer symptoms, such as skin rashes, and appears harmless.
While in most cases, you will know if you’ve had Covid, it’s thought a huge number of people have it without feeling any symptoms.
So, next time you’re giving your nails a tidy up, it’s worth a closer look to see if you have already had the virus.
Dark nail lines: Melanoma
IF you spot any black lines under your nails, it’s important to get them checked as they could be a sign of melanoma – the deadliest skin cancer – as well as lupus and HIV.
But the lines can also be caused by certain medications, including chemotherapy, beta blockers and anti-malarial drugs.
Dr Amuthan said: “Melanonychia is a brown-black discolouration of the nail, which can occur in a line or band.
“A new or changing long band can be a sign of melanoma – a type of skin cancer.”
Scaly red bumps: Eczema
THE skin is the largest organ so it can often be a window to what’s going on inside the human body.
Dr Amuthan explained: “Tiny blisters on your hand is a typical presentation of pompholyx eczema, most often seen in early 20s.
“It presents at first with a burning sensation and itching.”
Meanwhile, scaly patches on your hands could be a sign of psoriasis.
And for people sensitive to changes in washing detergent or toiletries, red bumps could mean a bout of contact dermatitis – another type of eczema.
Chewed down nails: Anxiety
CATCH yourself biting your nails more these days?
Repetitive behaviours like this can be a sign of stress or anxiety, researchers at Temple University in Arizona found.
Dr Amuthan said: “Nail biting, medically known as onychophagia, can be an indicator of stress.
“It can be associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and other psychiatric disorders.
“It can also cause physical problems, including infections in the nail bed.”
White fingers: Raynaud’s
IF your fingers (or toes) have ever gone completely white and numb, it may be Raynaud’s syndrome.
“Cold temperatures or emotional stress can trigger Raynaud’s,” Dr Amuthan said. “This leads to your fingers going white, blue and red due to vasospasm, where the blood vessels cramp.
“Some cases are idiopathic which means it’s spontaneous and we don’t exactly know why some people are affected and others aren’t.
“Episodes should resolve in a few minutes but they can last a few hours. Speak to your GP if concerned.”
Trigger finger: Arthritis
MOST commonly associated with arthritis, trigger finger is not something you should just simply ignore.
The phrase is used to describe when bending your finger becomes painful and stiff, Dr Amuthan explained.
He added: “It’s the inflammation of a tendon which leads to limited movement.
“While trigger finger can occur independently, it can be linked to rheumatoid arthritis, gout – another type of arthritis – and diabetes.”
Club nails: Lung cancer
CHECKING your nails for something called clubbing can be life-saving too.
Dr Amuthan said: “It’s a thickening of the tissues under the nail plate, causing the angle, or dip, between the finger and the nail to be lost.”
Nails will appear more curved than normal and your fingertips might appear larger – or “clubbed”.
He added: “Often clubbing is associated with lung cancer and chronic lung conditions such as bronchiectasis, lung abscesses, emphysema, and pulmonary and cystic fibrosis.”
Hand tremor: Parkinson’s
THIS month it emerged that University Challenge host Jeremy Paxman has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
For around 70 per cent of people with the condition, a tremor is one of the early signs, Dr Amuthan revealed.
“The most common symptom is a resting tremor,” he added.
“Pill-rolling tremor involves the thumb and index finger in a motion that resembles rolling a pill. It is worse at rest.
“Tremors can also be a sign of anxiety as well as other neurological conditions.”
Swollen hands: IBD
PUFFY hands are not just a problem when it comes to squeezing your rings on.
One of the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease – along with gut troubles – is swollen hands and fingers.
Dr Amuthan said: “Swelling and pain can sometimes develop in the joints of the hands and feet in people who have inflammatory bowel disease.
“It is seen more commonly in those having Crohn’s flare-ups affecting the large intestine.”
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