Yellow Hands

Skin discoloration creates concern among those experiencing this for the first time. The causes may be minor and related to diet or supplement use, but more serious disease processes can result in yellow colored hands. This article will share the important facts, including possible causes and treatment options, which helps you know when to get your doctor involved.

Causes and Treatments of Yellow Hands

1. Excessive Beta Carotene or Vitamin B

Beta-carotene and vitamin B are important antioxidants and involved in the body's defense mechanisms. Excessive dietary intake results in hypercarotenemia or carotenemia.

Foods such as carrots, oranges, spinach, squash and sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene. Research data shows that about 20mg of beta carotene or eating three 8-inch carrots daily can result in excess pigment showing up in the skin. This yellow discoloration can also be seen in anorexic persons. Rarely is it caused by a metabolic or enzymatic defect.

Condition description:

Hypercarotenemia results in a yellow or yellow-orange discoloration of the skin including the hands. It can be subtle or quite pronounced in appearance and intensity. Those who consume vast quantities of vegetables such as carrots may even notice a yellow or orange discoloration of their stools.


  • Cut B vitamins. If you notice yellow hands, the first step is to cut back or eliminate supplements and vitamins that contain vitamin B. You should notice a gradual decrease in the yellow color over the next several days as B vitamins are water soluble and not stored in the body. The skin should resume a normal appearance completely within one month of discontinuing B vitamin supplementation.
  • Make dietary changes. Limit the foods rich in beta carotene as mentioned before.Be sure to look at your diet and determine how many servings of vegetables you are eating a day. If the color does not show signs of improving over the next two weeks, it is time to see your doctor to evaluate for another cause.

2. Jaundice

Jaundice is a sign of a serious medical condition and prompt evaluation by a doctor is required. Bilirubin builds up in the body and is deposited in the skin and other locations. The causes include hepatitis, alcohol and cirrhosis, viral infections and metabolic disorders.

Condition description:

Excess bilirubin deposition in the skin and also sclera (white of eyes) giving a yellow hue to the body, including yellow hands. Even the undersurface of the tongue can appear yellow. Other skin findings may be present depending on the cause of jaundice. Chronic excess alcohol intake can cause cirrhosis and ascities. The liver becomes permanently scarred and weeps fluid. The result is a distended abdomen along with jaundice, easy bruising and chronic poor health. Other symptoms include: fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, fever, weight changes and confusion.


  • Stop certain medications. The primary focus is to determine the cause. Stop any medications known to cause jaundice and liver inflammation, stop alcohol intake, and avoid Tylenol and other medications that are processed through the liver.
  • Avoid junk foods. Optimize nutrition and avoid processed foods, particularly those high in sodium and protein. All fast food, fried foods and processed meats should be cut from the diet for a minimum of two months.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. The diet must contain an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables eaten on a daily basis. Whole foods and freshly cooked meals are the best choice.
  • Use herbal remedies. Herbal remedies may be helpful, but be sure do discuss with your doctor. Examples include sugarcane juice, boiled snake gourd leaves, juice of bitter luffa and star fruit juice.

3. Diabetes

Diabetes causes a variety of metabolic derangements in the body. Fat metabolism is altered any a variety of skin conditions can result. Diabetics at times may note a yellow color to their hands. The exact cause still remains unclear, but a combination of hormonal irregularities and altered metabolic processes contribute to the discoloration.

Condition description:

The hands will appear yellow and even wax-like over time. Diabetes also causes muscle wasting and the spaces between the fingers will appear sunken and discolored.


  • Control glycemic level. The best option is proper glycemic control. Diabetics must monitor their blood sugar closely and make daily adjustments in their insulin use.
  • Maintain healthy diet. A proper diet with whole and natural foods will provide the best nutritional support for diabetics. Sugar, processed foods, alcohol and snack foods must be avoided.

The skin color should improve with proper diabetic control, but the muscle wasting of the hands is generally permanent.

4. Other Causes

Any disease process that damages the liver can result in yellow hands.

Examples include liver cancer, malaria and other parasitic infections. Gallstones may block liver ducts and result in a build up of bilirubin in the skin. This also causes yellow eyes and hands. TNT (trinitrotoluene) is used in the firecracker and explosive industry and prolonged contact during the manufacturing process can result in yellow discoloration of the hands.

Seeking evaluation from a physician is a wise choice, as more serious causes must be quickly treated to avoid dangerous health consequences.

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