It is necessary to check our nails constantly and monitor any stains and differences in nail shape and composition. Our nails are rarely the first clues to disease, but it is nonetheless important to know that some diseases manifest in our nails. Being able to distinguish between the dangerous and less severe signs in our nails will permit us to know when to ask for advice and when we can take steps to fix the problem ourselves.
Overall, nail health remains a vital part of a healthy body.
To notice anomalies, we must first be informed of what a normal nail should look like. A healthy nail is semi-transparent, light pink, and uninjured on the nail bed. The white half-moon (or lunula) is noticeable just above the skin. Checking the nails may not present an absolute diagnostic tool, but if the differences below are seen and you have any concerns about them, talk to your doctor.
What Do Differences In Nail Color Reveal?
- Yellow Nail Syndrome is a yellow stain of the fingernails and may show respiratory conditions and lymphatic conditions. Other symptoms of yellow nail syndrome involve thickening of the nails, stunted new growth and there may even be detachment from the nail bed in some cases.
- Terry’s Nails exhibit in opaque-looking nails with a dark band at the tip of the nail. Although the ailment may just be due to aging, it may also mean more serious conditions e.g. congestive heart failure, diabetes, liver disease, or malnutrition.
- Dark spots on the nail may indicate something as serious as skin cancer (melanoma). Get medical advice on this condition as soon as possible.
- Deep blue nail beds or pale blueish nails may be characteristic of asthma, emphysema or anemia as it points to a decrease in oxygen supply
- Green nails may point to a fungal infection
- White spots on the nails do not point to zinc or calcium deficiency, but rather to injury. As the spots show up to a few weeks following the injury, it may be hard to recall the event causing the injury. The injury can be trivial trauma such as extreme pressure on the nail or it may even show an allergic reaction to certain nail products, for example, nail polish or hardeners. The white spots ultimately grow out and in about 7 months they may leave.
- White nail color can reveal liver or kidney disorders. However, by the time these signs show up in the nails, there may have been other indications you may have noticed.
What Do Changes in Nail Structure Reveal?
- Pitting nails have little depressions in the nail and is prevalent in psoriasis which is a skin condition causing scaly patches. Therefore, signs will have been seen in the skin as well. Nail wounds may also cause pitting and the condition may sometimes cause the nails to crumble. It is usually associated with conditions that damage the cuticle such as chronic dermatitis of the fingers or an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.
- Nail clubbing is identified by enlargement of the tips of the fingers and the nails curving around the fingertips. It emerges due to a decrease in oxygen levels in the blood and could be a sign of lung disease. It has also been linked with inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, and liver disease.
- In spoon nails, the nails are soft and seem scooped out. The depression in the nail is normally large enough to hold a drop of liquid. This situation points to iron-deficiency anemia.
- Beau’s Lines are parallel indentations which may arise when growth under the cuticle is interrupted either by injury or diseases such as uncontrolled diabetes, circulatory diseases, pneumonia or other illnesses associated with high fever, or malnutrition. Nail growth may be hindered by other factors too such as climate, pregnancy, age, and stress. Infections of the digestive tract may also affect nail growth. In rare cases, the lines may point to poisoning.
- Vertical ridges on fingernails can be both shallow or deep. The superficial ridges may solely be due to a lack of moisture or due to the normal aging process. The deeper ridges may symbolize arthritis or decreased circulation to the base of the nail.
- Split fingernails that are dry and brittle have been linked to thyroid diseases. If also linked with a yellowish color, it may be due to a fungal infection. Susceptibility to harsh detergents may also cause the nails to split.
Interesting Facts about Your Fingernails:
- They rise four times faster than toenails.
- Your middle fingernail grows the fastest while the thumbnail grows the slowest
- Your fingernails rise at a rate of about 3 mm (1/8 inch) per month
- Nails grow quicker during pregnancy
- Nails on your dominant hand (the writing hand) grow quicker since writing stimulates blood flow
- Nails grow faster in more temperate climates
- Contrary to belief, men have faster-growing fingernails than women