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Yellow or orange discoloration of the palms of the hands can be a distressing sight, especially if one doesn't know why such a situation occurs. The extent of the change in color, such as whether just the hands or the whole body are involved, may help one to understand why this scenario occurs.

Before consulting with a doctor, it's advisable to determine whether the orange discoloration of the skin is caused by a stain or not. Certain tanning lotions and sprays are known to cause orange color changes to the palms of the hands as well as objects that can rub off on the wet or sweaty skin.

Orange or yellow color changes to the hands are rarely caused by genetic disorders or occur as side effects of medications. If stains are ruled out as possible causes of the condition and the affected individual presents with various other signs and symptoms such as abdominal pain or fevers, then they should consult with their primary care doctor to be evaluated, investigated, and managed further.

Dietary Causes

One of the main causes why the skin may turn yellow or orange is due to the affected individual's dietary intake. 

Consuming a large amount of orange and yellow vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins, and squash may result in a condition known as carotenemia. This condition is characterized by yellow or orange pigmentation of the skin that is caused by an increased amount of beta-carotene found in the mentioned vegetables.

Carotenemia caused by the dietary intake of beta-carotene-containing foods tends to be most noticeable at locations where the skin surface is the thinnest such as the palms of the hands, the nasolabial fold or the skin that runs from the nose to the mouth, and the soles on the feet.

Medical Conditions

In some cases, carotenemia may be caused by medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertriglyceridemia (elevated fat levels in the blood), kidney diseases, hypothyroidism (decreased thyroid gland function), and liver diseases.

The reason why these conditions may cause carotenemia is thought to be as a result of faulty metabolism that results in fat in the bloodstream binding the carotenoids and prevent them from being naturally excreted via sweat, urine, and the stool. Also, the thyroid hormone and liver enzymes are responsible for the conversion of carotenoids to vitamin A, so hypothyroidism and liver disease can lead to an elevated amount of carotenoids being present in the tissues.

Jaundice

Jaundice is another possible scenario that may cause the hands to have a yellow or even orange appearance and this needs to be excluded as a possible cause of the discoloration of the hands.

Jaundice is caused by the build-up of bilirubin in the bloodstream and this can even involve the eyes, generalized areas of the body, and the mucous membranes. Bilirubin can be present in the bloodstream for various reasons such as due to the breakdown of red blood cells, diseases affecting the liver such as viral hepatitis or due to excessive alcohol use, and as a result on obstruction in the ducts of the biliary system.

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