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What Your Nails Say About Your Health

Dr. Kline & Green Team
10 December 2019
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Why your nails are such an important indicator of health

You may not know this, but by looking at your nails, you can tell a lot about how healthy you are. Slight changes in your nails can be an indicator for a number of health issues. It can be a tool to see if you are low on iron, are having liver issues, or even if you might have certain issues in the future. Because of this, it is very important that you pay attention to that state of your nails. If you notice any changes, such as discoloration, a visit to your doctor can tell you whether it’s of any concern. As a start, here are a few nail traits and what they can mean for your overall health.

If your nails are pale or very white

The color of your nails is the first thing you notice when you check them over. Do they have a strange yellow tinge to them? Are they a bit paler than normal? Well, that can mean a handful of different things. For example, mainly white nails can mean possible liver problems, such as hepatitis, low protein stores in the body, kidney failure, or in rare cases, heart disease or diabetes.

If your nails are pale, that can be an indicator of anemia, meaning a lack of healthy red blood cells. This can cause fatigue and dizziness, among other things. Other possible causes of pale nails are similar to white nails, as it can mean congestive heart failure, liver issues (including liver disease), and malnutrition. If you find your nails paler than usual, you should take a look at your diet, and see if you get enough iron.

If your nails are yellow and thick

A yellow color to your nails is much more noticeable than other changes, which is important, because it is definitely something to pay attention to. Generally, if your nails become yellow or thicker than usual, this means a fungal infection. This can be accompanied by pain or other discomforts, and in this case, you should definitely schedule a visit with a doctor.

Most topical medicine doesn’t usually do much for the infection since it affects the nail bed and deeper, so you may need an oral medicine prescribed by a doctor. The prescription medicine does come with adverse side effects which are featured on the label. However, there are newer treatment options available which penetrate through the nail plate to give relief to fungal symptoms. Look for products which feature a ‘transdermal delivery system’ because this means it will work on the area under the nails where fungus thrive.

There are other conditions that might cause yellow nails such as psoriasis or thyroid diseases (in rare cases), and chronic bronchitis.

If your nails are blue, red, or have dark lines

If your nails become blue, this is a sign that your body isn’t getting enough oxygen. This can also be an indicator of lung or heart issues, excessive silver consumption, or simply a side effect of a medicine you are taking. The appearance of red streaks in nails can be caused by trauma, heart valve infection, blood vessel inflammation, among other things.

If you find dark, thick lines in your nails, pay attention and visit a doctor, because this can be a sign of melanoma, an intense skin cancer. There are instances where dark lines are normal, especially in people with darker skin tones, but it’s best to be vigilant in this case as it can be an indicator for serious illness.

If your nail texture is rippled or pitted

Changes in nail texture, such as ridges, nail clubbing, meaning the tips of your nails are enlarged or curling towards your fingers, or rippling, it can all point to certain health conditions. Common causes of rippled or nail pitting, where there are small depressions on the surface of your nails, can be a sign of skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema, and is frequently associated with individuals with certain hair loss and arthritis.

Nail clubbing, which usually occurs over years, is caused by a variety of diseases, like liver, thyroid, or heart, and can also be a sign of HIV/AIDS, so that is certainly a change to pay attention to! As for ridges on your nails, if they are running parallel to your fingers, it is usually normal. But if you notice ridges running across your nails, it can mean diabetes, or be caused by older illnesses and exposure to certain medicines.

Your nails can tell you a lot about yourself

Of course, we recommend visiting a doctor if you have any concerns about your nails. But as you can see, something as simple as the tinge of your nails can be a key indication of an illness. Many other nail problems, like split or cracked nails, can mean something, so watching your nails can help you get the jump on health conditions. In most cases, small changes in your nail appearance are normal. But if you see nail changes and abnormal nail growth that worries you, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor. They are there to answer your questions, and keep you as healthy as possible!

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