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What Nails Say About Health

Dark Lines Or Spots Underneath Nails

What do Your Nails Say About Your Health & Nutrition? Dr.Berg

Unless caused by an acute injury, a dark streak running vertically under nails should be examined by a doctor right away, as it could be a sign of a type of skin cancer known as subungual melanoma. If left unchecked, it can spread to your lymph nodes. Sometimes, black or brown lines can be the result of other conditions like heart problems, lupus, vasculitis, fungal infection, psoriasis, Raynauds syndrome, or lung, kidney, or circulatory problems.

Symptom: Series Of Horizontal Depressions On The Thumb

Thats a classic sign of a habit tic deformity, where people chronically rub or pick the cuticle of the thumb with their index finger as the nail is being formed. It creates a washboard-like series of horizontal depressions on the thumb nail.

A lot of people do it when they dont know theyre doing it, Rich said. We see it a lot.

Course of action: People can fix the issue if they simply stop manipulating their thumb cuticles, Rich noted.

Cracked Brittle Or Split Nails

Nails that are dry, peel easily, or seem brittle or thin may be damaged from weather or from too much nail polish. But they may also be showing signs of something more serious. The condition technically known as onychoschizia could be the result of vitamin deficiencies, anemia, or hypothyroidism.

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What Your Nails Say About Your Health

Your nails can reveal clues about how healthy you are. Learn what a change in nail color, shape, or texture says about your overall health.

You probably trim your fingernails on a regular basis, but whens the last time you really took a closer look at your nails?

Your nails can reveal a lot about your general state of health, so its important to recognize the signs of healthy nails, as well as abnormalities that could indicate a medical problem.

Not sure whats normal and whats not? Here are some clues to help you determine what healthy nails look like, and when there could be a problem, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Black Lines On Your Nails

This Is What Your Fingernails Say About Your Health ...

Black lines, often appearing as brown or dark red, are called splinter haemorrhage, and can appear multiple times in a persons lifetime. It is usually caused by an external injury or trauma to your nail like slamming the door on your finger accidentally. The lines are caused due to inflammation of blood vessels under your nails and disappear as the nail grows back.

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Changes In Nail Shape And Texture

Pitted nails

An abnormal nail shape and nail surface can also signal a health issue. For example, nails that are dimpled or pitted like somebody took a pen and just pressed it in and it made an imprint, Flowers says can point to psoriasis, a chronic skin disease. Psoriasis can also cause the nails to loosen and separate from the nail bed, as can thyroid disease.

Nails that are dimpled or pitted can point to psoriasis.

Spoon nails

Soft nails that look almost as if the center of the nail bed has been scooped out can be a sign of an iron issue either your body isn’t getting enough or it’s storing too much, a condition known as hemochromatosis, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Clubbed nails

A nail that curves around an enlarged fingertip, known as clubbing, may suggest cardiovascular and pulmonary problems. It can also occur alongside gastrointestinal problems.

Clubbed nails may suggest cardiovascular and pulmonary problems.

Cracked Or Brittle Nails

In most cases, dry, cracked, and brittle nails are related to lifestyle factors. For example, frequent use of nail polish remover, spending more time with your hands under water , living in a low humidity region, and exposure to chemicals .

Splitting and cracking can also indicate hypothyroidism or fungal infection. On the other hand, brittle nails can be caused by lack of vitamin A, vitamin B biotin, or vitamin C.

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Symptom: Brown Vertical Stripe On The Nail

This may be a sign of melanoma. While you may think the deadliest type of skin cancer always shows up as a mole or dark spot, it can actually start in the nail.

Only about 1 percent of all melanomas in Caucasians occur in the nail, but if youre African-American, 20 percent of melanomas start there, Rich said.

In more advanced cases, it can spread on to the cuticle area or the skin around the nail. Thats an ominous sign its means its growing and spreading, she noted.

Hormones and certain medications can also make pigmented bands in the nails, but be especially watchful for nail cancer symptoms, such as a brown or dark stripe that goes from the cuticle out to the free edge of the nail, especially one thats getting wider.

If you have brown fingernails and the discoloration is round, as opposed to linear, it could be another condition. For example, brown spots on nails, especially if they’re pitted, could be a sign of nail psoriasis.

Course of action: Get any brown pigmentation on your nail checked out by a dermatologist.

How Do I Keep My Nails Healthy

What Your Nails Say About Your Health

Our bodies are smart so when were low in vitamins and minerals, our nails and hair will show it, explains Norris.

Eating a variety of whole foods will usually get you all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your nails need. A simple fix is to start taking a quality multivitamin, but Norris advises against a one-a-day type: Its difficult for our bodies to digest large compressed tablets. When taking these products, we dont actually break it down effectively so we miss out on the vitamins and minerals that are within it.

Instead, she suggests looking for a product that comes in easy-to-digest capsules. Why? Capsules are typically made from gelatin and its much easier for our bodies to break down gelatin to get to the vitamins and minerals within the product.

Opt for popular choices:

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The Problem: Severely Bitten Nails

Nail-biting is a common habit, but if it’s excessivesay, constant biting or picking at the skin around the nailsit could be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder. “Sometimes psychiatric medicine is required to treat OCD-related nail biting,” says Dr. Jaliman. “A bitter-tasting compound that’s polished onto the nails can help, too.”

When Your Nails Change Their Texture

Known as Onychoschizia, rough and easily-breakable nails are the most commonly reported nail problems, especially in women. They are caused by frequent wetting and drying of your fingernails. It can also be caused due to an iron deficiency or hypothyroidism. Wear protective gloves while washing utensils or cooking, and apply hand lotions.

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What Nails Say About Our Health

Healthy nails equal a healthy body, says Morgan Rabach, MD, a board certified dermatologist in New York City. Nails can be indicators of both medical conditions and skin disorders. Nails can be the first sign of an underlying medical condition, like thyroid disease, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disorders, certain cancers, and malnutrition, she explains. There are also many skin disorders, like psoriasis and eczema, where there are nail findings.

The appearance of the nails can also be an indication of how well we take care of ourselves. Our nails are a direct reflection of our nutrition, says Megan Rigby, PNP, DNP, a nutritionist and wellness coach in Phoenix, AZ. As she explains it, what youre putting into your body is a direct reflection of what you see on the outside. How we nourish and hydrate our body is directly seen in our overall nail health, she shares.

Your Nails Are Growing With A Downward Curve

This Is What Your FINGERNAILS Say About Your Health

If your nails are curving down and have a noticeable rounded edgekind of like upside down spoonsthis could be a sign of clubbing8. Clubbing can even make the tips of your fingers appear swollen or bulging. It is typically caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood, so it can happen with many different heart or lung diseases. Lung cancer is the most common cause, but congenital heart problems or infections of the heart or lung can also give nails this clubbed appearance. It may also be a sign of IBD or another inflammatory problem in the GI tract, like celiac disease.

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Cancer Treatments And Nail Health

Certain cancer drugs may also cause nails to change color or texture. The American Cancer Society lists the following nail changes that may result from certain chemotherapy or targeted therapy drugs:

  • Dark areas in the cuticle
  • Darkening of the nails, known as hyperpigmentation
  • Deep grooves known as fissures
  • Tiny red or brown lines that grow in the same direction as the nail
  • Nail loss

Get More Health Tips From Us Med

Whether youve paid close attention to the condition of your nails for years or you havent considered the links between nails and health before now, nails have a great deal to say about your health. We hope this article has provided you with some valuable information to keep in mind for the future.

Would you like to find additional health tips from US MED? If so, take a look at our official blog!

Medical Review by Shirley DeLeon, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

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Cracked And Split Nails

Nail brittleness can result in cracked and split nails. The two common types of presentation for ilils are onychoschizia and onychorrhexis.

Onychoschizia is a term for the horizontal distal splitting of the nails free end and can also be referred to as lamellar splitting. This occurs most commonly from trauma, causing separation to the adhesions of the nail plate intracellularly. It can also occur from frequent washing of the hands.

Onychorrhexis presents as longitudinal splitting rather than horizontal splitting. This can occur either as a single split or several longitudinal splits of the superficial nail plate, which may be an idiopathic occurrence with no underlying identifiable cause or can be due to various conditions such as trauma, nail-biting, alopecia areata, nutritional deficiencies, nail fungus, eczema, psoriasis, anemia, or bulimia nervosa.

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5 Things Your Nails Can Say About Your Health

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Your Thyroid Isn’t Functioning Properly

Your dry, brittle nails may not be your favorite thing to look at, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. According to the American Academy of Dermatology , “thick, dry, and brittle with visible ridges” can be a sign of thyroid disease. So, before you focus on your aesthetic problem, be sure to rule out this serious health issue.

Your Nails Have Small Dents In The Surface

This phenomenon is called pitting. When pitting shows up with no apparent pattern, its typically indicative of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis but can also be related to connective tissue disorders like Reiters syndrome . When pitting shows a regular pattern, it can be a sign of alopecia areata, a type of hair loss caused by an autoimmune response.1If what youre noticing isnt quite pitting but is instead deep lines or grooves in your nails, you might be dealing with a phenomenon known as Beau lines. Some lines on your nail can be normal, but Beau lines are noticeably deep and run width-wise on the nail, not vertically. These can appear after really intense stress to your nail makes it stop growing for some time2. Causes of this can include high fever, which is why there’s been concern about COVID nails, or what some experts think may be Beau lines manifesting after COVID-19 infection.

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Symptom: Ridges On Nails

Vertical lines on nails or ridges are common as you get older. Most people eventually get them.

Theyre kind of like wrinkles in the nail, Rich said. She discourages patients from buffing or filing the ridges smooth because that thins the nail.

Deep horizontal ridges or depressions, known as Beaus lines, are more alarming. They indicate something caused the nail to stop growing temporarily. Triggers can include high fever, chemotherapy, a serious illness, major surgery, blood transfusion, a car accident or any major stress to your system, Rich noted. You can have a series of parallel Beaus lines that create the effect of rippled nails or bumpy nails if you experienced multiple episodes of stress.

Course of action: If you cant link your deep horizontal ridges to a specific episode in your life, ask your doctor what the cause could be.

Vertical ridges are usually just a part of aging. If you want to cover them up, dont buff, but use a ridge filler.

How Do You Ensure Optimum Nail Health


Make sure that you have a balanced diet and Philippa recommends getting plenty of iron , zinc and B12 . Keep hands, nails and cuticles well moisturised and consider supplements if your doctor finds that your vitamin levels are low.

“By moisturising skin and hands you can reduce water loss of the nails and improve hydration. Look for oatmeal based creams. Don’t forget to keep cuticles moisturised too.”

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Horizontal Grooves Or Gaps

Do you have a nail that shows one or more depressed bands or gaps that stretch horizontally around the nail? That describes Beau’s lines, which are the most common nail problem associated with systemic disease. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell which disease caused it just from the nail. These unsightly lines may form in response to extreme cold, nail trauma, heart attack, or many other extreme stresses like syphilis, mumps, and pneumonia.

The Problem: White Spots

Many people believe that white spots on nails indicate a calcium deficiency, but this isn’t typically the case: “Usually, those white spots are not very significant,” Dr. Anthony says. “They’re often the result of minor trauma, such as if you whack your finger against something, and aren’t generally to do with calcium.”

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S Of What Your Nails Say About Your Health

Did you know that your nails can be so much more than just a platform for nail art? They can tell a lot about your health condition if you just pay more attention to the changes that might occur.

For instance, the ordinary nail thickening or discoloration can indicate a certain health issue connected with your kidneys, liver, heart, blood, lungs, etc.

The shape, color, texture and even the growth rate of your nails can act as a window into your body. The growth rate depends on your diet, health condition, medications, and the aging process.

So, if you notice any discoloration, swelling, or changes in thickness or shape, its best to consult a dermatologist. Even though it might not be anything serious, its best to check in order to prevent an underlying health condition from worsening. Diabetics are one example of people who can notice nail problems.

Here are ten nail symptoms and the potential meaning behind them.

You Have A Skin Infection

What Your Nails Say About Your Health

Are your nail folds looking a little too puffy and red? If so, you may have an infection that needs treating. “The most common cause of nail fold inflammation is a skin infection from bacteria, viruses, or yeast,” according to Garrity. And for other things to look out for on your outer layer, check out 7 Signs Your Skin Is Trying to Tell You You Have Coronavirus.

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Nail Problems Associated With Specific Nutrient Deficiencies

Deficiencies in iron, zinc, biotin , folate , and cobalamin can all cause specific nail symptoms.

  • Iron deficiency can cause a pale appearance to the nails, and a severe iron deficiency can cause anemia and may further lead to spoon nails .
  • A zinc deficiency can cause white spots to develop on the nail plate.
  • A cobalamin deficiency can cause dark nail discoloration.
  • A folate deficiency can cause pigmentation and brittle nails.
  • A biotin deficiency can cause brittle nails.

Healthy Diet For Healthy Nails

Most people in the U.S. are not getting the adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals needed for optimal function of their body. So, lack of nutrients can lead to many health disorders, including nail, skin, and hair problems.

Your nails need protein from healthy sources like free-range eggs, whey protein, and grass-fed meat. Moreover, your nails need vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in berries, leafy greens, and whole foods.

Vitamin B7, biotin, is one of them. Besides strengthening your nails and hair, this vitamin helps in metabolizing carbs, fats, and amino acids. Also, it helps build keratin which creates nails. Some great sources of Biotin are egg yolks from organic, free range eggs.

Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids from an animal source are also recommended, as opposed to omega-6 fats. The latter can cause inflammation which leads to heart disease, depression, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, 1:1 would be the perfect ratio for omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Unfortunately, most Americans consume 20 to 50 times more omega-6 fats than omega-3s, mostly from vegetable oils.

Soft or brittle nails can indicate distorted omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. Thats why you need to avoid vegetable oils and consume more omega-3 fatty acids from an animal source like sardines, krill oil, or anchovies.

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