If you’ve ever had a long swim or bath or doing the dishes, you might be familiar with the common experience of having your fingers and toes wrinkled. There are several scientific theories explaining why this happens in the first place, but now, doctors are finding pruney fingers to be quite useful in surprising ways.
The most common cause of wrinkly fingers is immersion in water. However, it could also point to some underlying medical conditions, according to Medical News Today.
For instance, studies show that wrinkles take longer to form in people with skin conditions such as vitiligo and psoriasis. On the other hand, people suffering from cystic fibrosis, or genetic carriers of the disease, experience excessive wrinkling of their palms.
Type 2 diabetic patients and those who have suffered heart failure experience decreased levels of skin wrinkling when their hands and toes are immersed in water. Medical News Today explains:
Diabetes affects the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels. People with diabetes may be more at risk of developing several skin conditions. Bacterial infections often cause the skin to become red, swollen, and possibly wrinkled.
A 2013 study shows that humans are able to grip wet objects 12 times better with wrinkled hands as opposed to when holding them with dry hands.
Nick Davis, a neuroscientist and psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University who carried out a similar research on his own explains to BBC Future:
The wrinkling increased the amount of friction between the fingers and the object. What is particularly interesting is that our fingers are sensitive to this change in the surface friction, and we use this information to apply less force to grip an object securely.
Another unresolved mystery about our wrinkly digits is that women tend to take longer to form wrinkles in their fingers and toes than men.