Fingertip wrinkles

The outermost layer of the skin swells when it absorbs water. It is tightly attached to the skin underneath, so it compensates for the increased area by wrinkling. However, new research is investigating the role of digital vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels) of water immersion wrinkling of the skin. (from Library of Congress)


Image from Meaghan Shanahan (link)

Scientists continue to look for the exact mechanisms of why our fingers and toes wrinkle when immersed in water (Wilder-Smith et al, Hsieh et al). One theory gaining recognition is the role of digital vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels). When hands are immersed in water it seems that the nerve fibers are triggered to “shrink” and glomus bodies (body temperature regulators in the skin) in the hand lose volume, which then pulls the skin structures downwards to produce wrinkling. Studies on patients with loss of nerve function in their hands due to a disorder or replantation of amputated fingers exhibit no or slight wrinkling in the fingers when immersed in water (Hsieh et al). As the nerve functions return, so did the wrinkling. (from Library of Congress. Link)

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