Take a good look at your fingernails and you may notice subtle variations in the texture or color; white spots, a rosy tinge, rippling or bumps in the surface to mention a few. These imperfections may not look like much to you, but it’s more important than you might think to maintain healthy fingernails. That’s because to the trained eye, nails can provide valuable indications about your overall health.
Hold a hand level with your nose about a foot out from your face and scrutinize each one. Look at the grooves, curves, ridges and dips. Notice how thick or thin they are and if there are any stark differences. Are your nails are chipped or broken. Make a note of the color of the nail itself, the skin under it as well as the skin around the nail. You need to get into the habit of knowing your nails and any changes that can occur. Changes are a good indication of the onset of several health problems. Here are 8 of the most common nail issues:
1. RIDGES: Healthy nails should have no obvious ridge lines and should be virtually smooth to the naked eye. Ridges can indicate several health issues including:
•Lupus (with red lines at the base of your nails)
Don’t ignore these ridges by using a nail buffer to smooth the surface – these are warnings to be noticed!
2. THICK NAILS: It is fairly obvious is you have a thickening of the nails and they can have several causes including:
•Thick/separated nails can indicate thyroid disease or psoriasis
•Thick/rough-surfaced nails can be a sign of fungal infection
•Unusually thick nails could be a symptom of a circulation problem
•Thick nails alone could even signal lung disease
Thickening is fairly easy to notice when it first appears but please note that allergic reactions to some medications manifest themselves as thick nails!
3. DISCOLORED NAILS: A healthy nail bed should be pink with a slight pinky white moon shape at the base. Streaks of any other stronger shades or colors can indicate health issues, as can nails that are tinged by other colors such as:
•Dark stripes towards the top of the nail are associated with aging and congestive heart failure
•Blueish tinge to the nails can be a sign of depleted oxygen levels in your blood
•Green nails are usually a sign of a bacterial infection
•White nails indicate liver disease, such as hepatitis
•Red streaks on the nail bed could be a warning of an infection of the heart valves
•Dull nails in general mean a deficiency of vitamins
Inspect your nails when they are clean and you should know when the color changes
4: PITTED NAILS: Sometimes small dips can just be the result of a bash to the hand in general, but sometimes more attention should be paid as they can be a symptom of:
•Zinc deficiency (usually the pit will form a line across the middle of the nailbed)
•Connective tissue disorder
•Alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disorder that results in hair loss
Learn the difference between an injury related imperfection which should not last too long, and a potential disease related imperfection which will not clear up.
5. DRY AND BRITTLE NAILS: Healthy nails should not require cuticle oil and moisturizers as they should maintain themselves. Excessively dry or brittle nails can be a sign of a hormonal balance problem or a bacterial infection.
•Thyroid disease can result in brittle, dry nails that also crack and split very easily
•Fungus can cause nails to become dry or even crumbly and is a common problem
Both these potential problems can be treated and the nails will return to good health once a full growing cycle has passed (hand nails grow at about 1 mm per week so on average the full life cycle of human nail is about 6 months).
6. CONCAVE OR SPOON SHAPED NAILS: What are known as ‘full spoon’ nails are very soft and curve upwards with the dip being pronounced enough to hold a drop or two of liquid. This usually is an indication of:
•Iron deficiency (usually from anemia)
•Hemachromatosis, which is a liver disorder caused by the body absorbing too much iron
If medical intervention clears up the root cause then the nails will return to a normal healthy shape with time.
7. CLUBBED NAILS: This is when the skin around the nail bed can appear inflamed or unusually puffy. This can mean:
•Lung disease, especially if you already have trouble breathing
•Inflammatory bowel disease
Most of these health issues will often have already given you other symptoms but the corresponding nail condition can help with diagnosis.
8. SPLIT NAILS: Often our nails split if we have injured them. But when no trauma has occured but the nail flakes away layer by layer it can be a result of several issues:
•Deficiency of Vitamin C, folic acid or proteins
•Split nails together with a pitted nail bed can indicate psoriasis
Eating a healthy well balanced diet can eliminate many of these causes.
Obviously our fingernails will not be the only signs of these diseases, but they can provide confirmation or else the motivation to seek further medical attention.
Strong, healthy nails reflect a strong, healthy you. Share with anyone you know may need to pay attention to their nails.