Researchers at the University of Leeds say they have solved a medical condition that puzzled Hippocrates more than 2,000 years ago. The phenomenon of "finger clubbing", a deformity of the fingers and fingernails, has been known for thousands of years, and has long been recognized to be a sign of a wide range of serious diseases.
Lung cancer, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, various gastrointestinal diseases and many other conditions all result in finger clubbing. But exactly why swollen, reddened fingers should be an indicator of serious illness has remained a mystery – until now.
"It's one of the first things they teach you at medical school," explained Professor David Bonthron of the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine. "You shake the patient by the hand, and take a good look at their fingers in the process."