It isn’t every day that a body part trends on Twitter. It’s more like every other day. And the latest body parts to gain attention have been Senator Mitch McConnell’s (R-Kentucky) hands. Yep, photos of the 78-year-old Senate Majority Leader’s right hand in particular have been making the rounds on social media. This isn’t a George Costanza hand model situation from the TV show Seinfeld, though. Instead, McConnell’s hands have attracted attention because in the photos they’ve appeared discolored with blackish and blueish hues. He also seemed to have bandages on both hands.
Just take a look at the photos accompanying these tweets from @anastasiakeeley:
And @VicStoddard offered some more pictures:
Others were wondering whether McConnell’s face also had similar discoloration:
His hands did prompt reporters to inquire about McConnell’s health. However, as Ted Barrett and Clare Foran reported for CNN, McConnell said on Thursday that there were “no concerns” about his health.
Of course, it is very difficult to diagnose any medical condition from afar. Sure, some medical issues may be fairly obvious. For example, if a hedgehog riding a motorcycle were to run into a person, then you may assume that any injuries immediately suffered by the person were the result of the HMVA or hedgehog motor vehicle accident. Although, in such a case, you couldn’t completely rule out the possibility that injuries actually resulted when the person subsequently fell on a tarantula holding a knife.
In most other cases, trying to diagnose a medical condition from afar is like trying to determine marriage material from a Tinder profile alone. There’s a lot of inaccurate guessing involved. You really need to conduct a physical exam, review the person’s medical history, ask the person questions directly, and perhaps even perform some testing. Don’t rely on hearsay or there-say. Oh, and you need medical experience and expertise to then make a diagnosis. Without knowing more, you can’t say for sure what’s going on with McConnell.
That’s because there are a number of possible causes of bluish hands. Here are some in no particular order:
1. Being a member of Blue Man Group.
This tends to be obvious. You are typically a man, who paints yourself blue and does performance art. Usually you don’t have to go to a doctor to determine if you are a member of Blue Man Group.
2. Paint, a tattoo, henna, or a costume.
Similarly, unless you had a night of drunken revelry or something similar, you will remember if you got a tattoo, are wearing a Mystique costume, or painted your hands to signify that you are “going Blue.” McConnell has not indicated any of these possibilities.
3. You are a baby.
Senators typically aren’t babies, in chronological age at least. A baby may have bluish hands and feet due to a rather immature blood circulation system. Such a tint will typically go away as the baby gets older. It should be pretty obvious if you are a baby too. If you need to go to a doctor to determine whether you are a baby, chances are you are probably a baby.
4. You are pregnant.
There are no clear indications that McConnell is pregnant. Nonetheless, hormonal or blood circulation changes can lead to changes in skin color or enlarged veins.
5. Bruising, bleeding, or skin damage from an injury
Some on social media speculated whether McConnell had an intravenous line placed in the veins in his hands, which may cause bruising. Anything from an accident at home to medical procedures to a right hook in a mixed martial arts (MMA) fight could lead to bruising and bleeding in the hand. Discoloration could also occur from burns resulting from exposure to chemicals or really, really hot lasagna.
6. Bruising or bleeding from a clotting issue
Speaking of bruising and bleeding, these can arise from blood clotting disorders or taking blood thinning and anti-clotting medications such as heparin or coumadin as well.
7. Reduced blood flow to the hand.
Cyanosis sounds like what happens when the Psy, the singer of the song “Gangnam Style” undergoes hypnosis. But instead, the term refers to the bluish skin discoloration that results when not enough oxygen reaches one or more of your body parts. This can occur when blood flow to the body part or parts is disrupted. Say you were to wear really tight skinny jeans. This could compromise the blood circulation to your feet, which could eventually turn blue if you continue to insist that you are just too sexy wearing those jeans.
Similarly, overly compressive jewelry on your wrists or hands could cause parts of them to go blue. Cyanosis can occur when either the arteries that bring blood to an area are compressed or otherwise disrupted or when the veins which carry blood away from the area are disrupted resulting in back-up that then impedes blood flow. Examples of such situations are blood clots, arterial or venous insufficiency, or spasms in the blood vessels such as when you have Raynaud’s phenomenon.
8. Reduce blood flow throughout your body.
Your hands are connected to the rest of your body. At least they should be. If they aren’t, see your doctor immediately. And bring your hands. Cyanosis can result when all of your body is not getting enough blood flow. This can be seen when your heart is not pumping blood adequately, you are dehydrated or losing blood, or your blood vessels are functioning properly such as during septic shock.
9. Not enough oxygen in your blood.
Unless you are an android, robot, or a gigantic tooth pick, your cells need oxygen to survive. This comes from when you take a breath, especially when you take a deep one and say, “oh, Justin Bieber.” The oxygen then makes its way down to your lungs where it’s transferred into to your blood. There red blood cells carry the oxygen to different parts of your body. Disruption of any of these steps can lead to not enough oxygen reaching your body parts. For example, problems with your lungs such as a bad pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can reduce the ability of your lungs to inhale oxygen and exchange it with your blood. Problems with your red blood cells can reduce their ability to carry oxygen.
10. Lymph flow issues
Another thing that flows from your hands besides blood, money, and dreams is lymphatic fluid. This drains through your lymphatic system, hence the name. Anything that prevents the normal flow of fluid through your lymphatic system can lead to backup, swelling (e.g., lymphedema), and discoloration of the affected body parts.
11. Skin conditions.
A number of different skin conditions can lead to discoloration of the hands. These range from various autoimmune diseases to hormonal imbalances to skin infections. Some examples are seen in the NIH MedlinePlus website from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
12. A photo issue.
Of course, any time you see a photo on the Internet, don’t rule out a different type of doctoring: doctoring of the photo. You see, there’s this thing called Photoshop that allows you to change what a photo looks like. So surprise, surprise, not everyone looks like they do in a picture. For example, with enough Photoshopping, McConnell could potentially look like Channing Tatum. Although Snopes has indicated that the photos of McConnell’s hands are legit.
These are some but not all of the possibilities. In general, bluish hands are not something that you should overlook. Unless, you can say, “oh, that’s right, I am one of those characters from the movie Avatar,” contact your doctor if your hands have such persistent discoloration. They could be the sign of something serious.
Again, at this point, any speculation about what’s causing the apparent discoloration of McConnell’s hand is no more than that, speculation. Like the left eye of Vice President Mike Pence during his debate with Senator Kalama Harris, seeing a discoloration of a body part from a distance can only you tell you so much. McConnell does not seem to be a member of Blue Man Group, although that’s never really seemed to come up during interviews. But other possibilities are harder to rule in and out without more information. In other words, you need a real direct medical hand to tell what’s really going on with his hands.