The Things Your Nails Tell About Your Health

beautiful nail

Did you know your nails can reveal clues to your state of health? A white patch here, a rosy tinge there, some gray lines and bumps, all these could be signs of disease in the body. Problems in the liver, lungs, and heart can show up in your nails. Read on as your nails unravel the secrets about your health.


nail pitting


1.     Nail Pitting

Nail pitting is the presence of small depressions in the nails. Nail pitting is most common in people who have psoriasis — a condition characterized by scaly patches on the skin. Nail pitting can also be related to connective tissue disorders such as Reiter’s syndrome and alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss) or chronic dermatitis. If you think your nail pitting is not caused by injury, you may want to consider seeing your doctor.

clubbed nail

2.     Nail Clubbing

Nail clubbing occurs when the tips of the fingers enlarge and the nails curve around the fingertips, usually over the course of years. Nail clubbing is sometimes the result of low oxygen in the blood and could be a sign of lung disease. Nail clubbing is also associated with inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and AIDS.

nail spooing

3.     Spoon Nails

Spoon nails (koilonychia) are soft nails that look scooped out. The depression usually is large enough to hold a drop of liquid. Often, spoon nails are a sign of iron deficiency anemia or a liver condition known as hemochromatosis, in which your body absorbs too much iron from the food you eat. Spoon nails can also be associated with heart disease and hypothyroidism.


terry's nail

4.     Dark Banded Nails (Terry’s Nails)

With the condition known as Terry’s nails, the tip of each nail has a dark band. Sometimes this can be attributed to aging. In other cases, it can be a sign of a serious underlying condition, such as liver disease, malnutrition, congestive heart failure or diabetes.

Beau's Lines

5.     Horizontal Indentations (Beau’s Lines)

Beau’s lines are indentations that run across the nails. The indentations can appear when growth at the area under the cuticle is interrupted by injury or severe illness. Conditions associated with Beau’s lines include uncontrolled diabetes and peripheral vascular disease as well as illnesses associated with high fever, such as scarlet fever, measles, mumps and pneumonia. Beau’s lines can also be a sign of zinc deficiency.


6.     Nail Separation

This is a condition known as onycholysi where the fingernails become loose and can separate from the nail bed. Sometimes detached nails are associated with injury or infection. In other cases nail separation is a reaction to a particular drug or consumer product, such as nail hardeners or adhesives. Thyroid disease and psoriasis — a condition characterized by scaly patches on the skin — also can cause nail separation.

Yellow Nail Syndrome

7.     Yellow Nail Syndrome

With yellow nail syndrome, nails thicken and new growth slows. This results in a yellowish discoloration of the nails. Nails affected by yellow nail syndrome might lack a cuticle and detach from the nail bed in places. Yellow nail syndrome is often a sign of respiratory disease, such as chronic bronchitis. Yellow nail syndrome can also be related to swelling of the hands (lymphedema).

Splinter hemorrhages

8.     Reddish Brown Line

Splinter hemorrhages, which are thin red or reddish brown lines under the nails, can be a sign of heart valve infection or vasculitis. While they may look like splinters, they’re actually lines of blood.

nail biting

9.     Nail Biting 

It is a nervous habit, like fidgeting and thumb sucking, and people do it when they’re stressed or bored. Mild nail-biting won’t cause permanent damage, but it does leave your hands looking unkempt and bloody, and could also leave you susceptible to infection in your fingers and your mouth. Sometimes, though, nail-biting and picking can be categorized as impulse-control disorder. It could indicate an anxiety or compulsive disorder and may require behavior therapy. If nail-biting is accompanied by hair pulling or self-mutilating behaviors, see a doctor.

blue nail

10.  Blue Shade in Nails

Matching your nail color to your lip color can be a beauty strategy. But when you’re sporting a light shade of blue on your nails and lips and cosmetics aren’t involved, you could be in immediate danger. Blue nails (particularly when paired with blue lips) can mean that you have an oxygen-related health problem, such as low hemoglobin, asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or pneumonia.

In addition to pulmonary problems, blue nails can also indicate certain heart conditions. If your nails have turned blue, regardless of condition, it’s usually a sign that your illness has become severe. Emergency medical attention might be needed.

white spot nails

11.  White Spots

Accidents happen – who hasn’t unintentionally caught a finger in a door or dropped something heavy on toe? Mild trauma to the nail bed can cause small white spots (leukonychia) in the nail plate that are harmless – they grow out as the nail grows and eventually you’ll clip off the damaged part of the nail. A more severe injury to the nail bed can cause dark spots or streaks on or under the nail, nail detachment and splinter hemorrhages.

You may ask your doctor to take a good look at your nails during your next checkup. This is already becoming a routine because nails offer such unique window into the health of human body.


Image courtesy: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.