The 11 Signals Your Nails are Giving You About Your Health
Many people put a lot of effort into keeping their nails perfectly trimmed, cleaned and manicured. If the nails aren't perfect, the solution is often to cover them up with fake nails or polish. But ignoring such signs and viewing them as only an aesthetic problem could be dangerous to your health.
Like your skin, your nails are excellent indicators of what's going on inside your body. If your nails are healthy (smooth and pink with a slightly curved surface), your body is probably pretty healthy too. But if your nails are discolored, brittle or otherwise appear unhealthy, it may be because of an underlying health problem.
"The nails can be windows to a patient's overall health, and while the nail itself is dead tissue, the areas under the cuticle and beneath the nail are alive," said dermatologist Richard K. Scher, M.D., professor of clinical dermatology at Columbia University in New York City.
Here are 11 signals your nails may be giving you about your health.
1. Yellow Nail Syndrome: This may cause a yellow or greenish color to your nails, thickening of the nail, slowed nail growth, a lack of a cuticle and the nail may detach partially from the nail bed. This condition often signals a respiratory disease.
2. Pitting: "If you see pits on the nails, it could be a sign that you are about to develop, or that you already have, psoriasis," said Dr. Amit Pandya, a dermatologist at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center in Dallas. The small depressions on the nail could also be a sign of chronic dermatitis of your fingers or alopecia areata.
3. Clubbing: This condition describes when the nails curve around your fingertips, which are usually enlarged. It's caused by low oxygen levels in the blood and may indicate lung disease.
4. Spoon Nails: If your nails look scooped out, like a spoon, it could be a sign of iron-deficiency anemia.
5. Terry's Nails: In this condition the nails look opaque with a dark band at the tip. This can be due to aging or a more serious illness including cancer, congestive heart failure, diabetes or liver disease.
6. Beau's Lines: These horizontal indentations across your nails could be a sign of malnutrition. They also may appear after serious injury or illness like a heart attack interrupts the growth of your nail.
7. Nail Separating From Nail Bed: When your nail becomes loose and separates from the nail bed, it could be related to injury, thyroid disease, fungal disease, drug reactions, reactions to acrylic nails or nail hardeners or psoriasis.
8. Brown or Black Colored Streak: This could be a sign of a melanoma under the nail. "Subungal melanoma should be suspected whenever a nail streak appears without known injury to the nail, the nail discoloration does not gradually disappear as would a bruise or the size of the nail streak increases over time," said Dr. Scher.
9. Vertical Nail Ridges: These are fairly common and may worsen with age. They do not signal any serious underlying disease.
10. White, Crumbly Nails: This is often due to a fungal infection.
11. Small White Spots: These are very common and usually recurring. They're caused by injury to the base of the nail and are not a cause of concern. The spots will grow out as your nail grows.