What is Palmar Erythema?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Palmar erythema is a reddening of the palms, especially around the base of the little finger and thumb. A number of medical conditions can cause this clinical sign, and some people also experience such reddening when they are in normal health. When this condition is identified in a patient, a doctor may recommend some follow up tests to determine the cause if the patient has no known medical condition which could cause reddening of the palms.

Reddening of the palms is referred to as palmar erythema.
Reddening of the palms is referred to as palmar erythema.

High blood pressure is a common cause for palmar erythema. It is also associated with liver disease, including liver cancers, cirrhosis, and hepatitis. Pregnant women have also be been known to experience this clinical sign. Some studies have suggested that elevated estrogen levels may also lead to reddened palms. However, it is important to remember that natural color variations in the hand are common in humans, and that redness in the palms is not necessarily a sign of disease or a cause for concern.

High blood pressure may cause palmar erythema.
High blood pressure may cause palmar erythema.

The reddened skin is not actually inflamed, although it may be caused by an inflammatory process elsewhere in the body. The skin should not feel tender or hot, and it may blanch when touched. In this case, applying pressure to the reddened areas will cause them to turn white for a moment before the red hue emerges.

Pregnant women commonly experience palmar erythema.
Pregnant women commonly experience palmar erythema.

Identifying this condition can be complicated. Many people have some reddening and mottling in their hands which makes it challenging to determine whether discoloration is normal or abnormal. The hue of the red can also vary, from a vivid pink to a more subdued red, and the redness may occur in areas beyond the base of the thumb and the little finger. For a patient with a regular primary care provider, the doctor may be familiar with cyclical reddening of the hands which appears normally in the patient, and thus able to differentiate between palmar erythema and perfectly normal palms. Patients who lack regular medical providers and are concerned about color changes in the hands may want to stress that the redness is new, and has not been experienced before.

Liver problems are on possible cause of palmar erythema.
Liver problems are on possible cause of palmar erythema.

In patients with conditions associated with palmar erythema, the appearance of reddening on the palms may not be a cause for concern. The doctor may suggest follow up tests to confirm that the patient isn't experiencing problems or changes. If the condition occurs in a patient with no history of problem such as high blood pressure, testing and examination can be used to explore what is causing the redness. If a cause is determined, a treatment plan can be developed and the redness should resolve as the condition is brought under control. If no cause can be found, the patient may simply have naturally red hands.

Many people with palmar erythema have reddening and mottling skin in their hands.
Many people with palmar erythema have reddening and mottling skin in their hands.
Palmar erythema is often associated with cirrhosis.
Palmar erythema is often associated with cirrhosis.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments

Grivusangel

I knew high blood pressure could cause a lot of different symptoms, but didn't know reddening of the palms was one of them. That's interesting.

I also never thought about this being a symptom of cirrhosis of the liver. I thought those were mostly upset stomach, yellowing of skin and eyes, but not this. I would probably have a fit if my palms suddenly started looking red and I couldn’t connect it to using a particular soap or something.

It just goes to show that when something new pops up and doesn't resolve itself in a couple of days, then it's probably time to see a doctor.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: