The color, shape, and texture of the nails can reveal a lot about our health. These signs might even indicate a serious health issue and diseases.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology:
“The state of our health, in general, can often be seen through our nails. Some unpleasant and quick changes in your nails, like thickening or discoloration, these signals may be sent due to some diseases like diabetes, liver or kidney diseases, and lung and heart conditions as well.”
Similarly, dermatologist Christine Poblete-Lopez, MD says:
“Your nails are a very good reflection of your health. Many things can occur in the nails that can signify systemic or skin problems. Pay attention to anything on or around your fingernails or toenails that suddenly appears different. Anything that doesn’t look normal ought to be addressed. Your best course of action is to see a doctor as soon as possible.”
The nails of a healthy person grow about 3 to 3.5 millimeters every month, but their growth is affected by numerous factors, like medications, trauma, nutritional status, age, etc.
Moreover, the nails of a healthy person are smooth, with a consistent coloring. They might develop vertical ridges or become more brittle, as one ages, but this is harmless. Also, spots on the nails due to an injury are not a sign of some health issues.
The appearance of abnormalities like nail separation, spots, and discoloration, can be due to infections, injuries, viral warts, and the use of some medications.
Dr. Poblete-Lopez claims that the changes in the nails can sometimes be just normal, and are not a symptom of any undiagnosed health changes. Yet, she advises:
“Some nails may not appear smooth or they might have longitudinal strips or ridges. As long as whatever you see is consistent throughout the distribution of the nail, it’s likely OK. If there’s something out of the ordinary, though, it’s reasonable to see a dermatologist.”
Therefore, remember to visit a dermatologist if you notice changes in the shape of the nails, swellings, discoloration, or thickening. It might be a sign of nothing dangerous, but it might also indicate a serious health issue.
You need to know the 10 nail symptoms and their meaning:
- Cracked, Brittle or Dry Nails
The splitting and cracking of nails might be a result of exposure to chemicals, the common use of nail polish remover, living in a low humidity area, or often having your hands in water.
Other possible causes include fungal infections, thyroid disease, vitamin A and C deficiency, or biotin deficiency.
- White Spots
White spots are caused by stress and trauma, and in some cases, they indicate a fungal infection.
- White Nails with a Strip of Pink
You might suffer from a liver disease, a heart failure, diabetes, or a kidney failure, if your nails have gone white and have pink strips.
- Yellow Nails
Aging, smoking, and using nail polish too often can make your nails yellow. Yet, if they are thick and crumbly, you might suffer from a simple fungal infection. Other potential reasons are diabetes, respiratory diseases, thyroid diseases or even psoriasis.
The multiple pits on the nails might indicate psoriasis. According to Chen: “Mostly this situation so-called “pitting” occurs in people that are dealing with psoriasis or in 80% of the people that are having psoriatic arthritis.” Yet, this might also be a sign of connective tissue disorders and alopecia areata.
This condition is characterized by enlarged fingertips, and nails growing downwards and is a result of low oxygen supplies in the blood and lungs. Hence, this is a sign of kidney issues, heart diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, or even AIDS.
- Vertical Ridges
This is a more common symptom in the elderly and is caused by the aging process. Yet, in some cases, this might also be a sign of magnesium or vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Horizontal Ridges
John Anthony M.D., a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, explains:
“This mostly occurs, if you are stressing out a lot, or you are constantly experiencing trauma, but sometimes this symptom can be due to some more dangerous and serious illness, and you can see that if the symptom is on more nails than one.
And your body sends you a message, that it has better things to do than make your nails beautiful, which leads to reduced growth of your nails.”
Horizontal ridges or otherwise known as Beau’s lines are usually a result of a circulatory disease, zinc deficiency, psoriasis, or diabetes. Mee’s Lines are another type of horizontal lines, which indicate arsenic poisoning, leprosy, carbon monoxide poisoning, malaria, or Hodgkin’s disease.
- Spoon Nails
If your nails have started to curve upwards on the edge, you are lacking iron in the body or you are suffering from a heart disease or hypothyroidism.
- Dark Discolorations
In this case, you should visit your doctor and check if the dark streaks on the nails indicate melanoma.
According to Dr. Poblete-Lopez, it is not always possible to prevent the underlying conditions that lead to the changes in the nails. However, eating a well-balanced diet and keeping the body properly hydrated will keep the nails healthy.
Moreover, make sure you consume foods rich in zinc, and vitamin B.
Here are some other useful nail care tips:
- Avoid nail polish and artificial nails
- Protect the nails from too much water or excessive exposure to chemicals
- Keep the nails short and trimmed
- Rub some organic coconut oil on the nails to supply them with the needed nutrients, and keep them hydrated, and strong