People may take a fancy to certain body parts. Some people may be obsessed with their hair; others may have a foot fetish, while some are downright obsessed with their nails.
Nail lovers have found plenty of ways to express their love. Frequent manicures and pedicures, artificial nail extensions and nail art are some of the popular nail accessorizing techniques.
While nails are all the rage owing to their body-accentuating potential, they are also a crucial body part. Fingernails protect the fingertips, certain finger bones and surrounding tissues.
Most people rarely associate fingernails with disease. However, they really should. Your fingernails can give you valuable health warnings and signal the presence of serious disease.
If eyes are regarded as the windows to the soul, nails offer information about your overall health. While strong and healthy nails add to your beauty, they also mean a healthy you.
On the other hand, unpleasant nail symptoms offer glimpses to several health problems, including malnutrition, infection and serious diseases.
Here are some important things your nails reveal about your health.
1. Yellowing of Nails
If your nails have either a subtle or dramatic yellow tinge, it can mean many health problems. The most common problem that it indicates is a nail fungus.
Diabetic people are more prone to suffer from a toenail fungal infection, which makes the nails turn yellow and become brittle. If the infection is not treated timely, the nail bed may retract and the nails may become thick.
At times, a yellow tinge on the nails can occur naturally with age or from frequent use of nail lacquers, acrylic nails or nail paints.
To prevent yellow nails, try taking a break from nail products and keep them natural for a while. Even excessive smoking can stain the nails and give them a yellowish hue.
If you have stained nails, rubbing the nails with lemon juice or denture cleaner will remove the stain. However, if the yellowing persists or gets worse, get your nails checked by your doctor.
In rare cases, yellow nails may indicate underlying conditions like bronchiectasis, lung infections like tuberculosis, liver conditions like jaundice, a thyroid problem or psoriasis, which causes scaly patches to form on the skin.
2. Pale and Dull Nails
Very pale and dull nails also indicate underlying health problems. One of the main causes of pale fingernails is iron-deficiency anemia.
Due to a low red blood cell count, there is inadequate oxygen in the blood. This causes the skin and other tissues to become pale, especially the tissue under the nails.
If the reason is lack of oxygen supply, it is important to massage the nail beds with a little warm olive or coconut oil for a couple of minutes, a few times daily.
Other possibilities include malnutrition, hepatitis, congestive heart failure and liver or kidney disease.
Whatever the cause, if you have very pale nails for more than a couple of months, it is recommended to consult your doctor to find out the exact cause.
3. Cracked and Split Nails
This nail issue is a common one, and many people suffer from it. Cracked and split nails aren’t normal and can indicate nutritional deficiencies, trauma as well as many health problems.
Nutritional deficiencies of folic acid, vitamin C or protein can cause this problem. Split nails may also result from chronic malnutrition.
Brittle and split nails can also be due to fungal nail infection (especially when accompanied by yellow nails), a skin condition called lichen planus, an underactive or overactive thyroid, and nail psoriasis.
You can even blame frequent hand washing or regular use of nail polish for your brittle and weak nails, but not all the time.
To treat split nails, try to keep the nails dry, avoid excessive water contact, practice good nail hygiene, keep the nails hydrated by applying lotion over them and avoid harsh nail care products.
If you do not see improvement in your cracked or split fingernails, consult your doctor or dermatologist for better treatment.
4. Excessively Thick Nails
Just like pale or split nails, excessively thick nails are also not natural. While major trauma to the nails is an obvious cause of thick and rough-textured nails, it can also signal a fungal infection.
Thick nails is one of the major symptoms of a fungal infection, especially in older people, which can even make the nails discolor and become crumbly.
Thick and separated nails could also indicate thyroid disease. Other possible causes are increasing age, psoriasis, wearing tight-fitting shoes for long periods of time and reactive arthritis.
Thick nails may be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause.
As overly thick nails can be painful and difficult to cut, they can increase one’s susceptibility to infection. To trim thick nails, it is essential to soak them in warm water for about 10 minutes first.
Thickening nails are a change that should tune you in to other health symptoms you may be ignoring. Hence, always consult a doctor!
5. Clubbing of the Nails
The term “clubbing of the nails” means the ends of the fingers swell and the shape of the nails become curved and rounded.
It can also soften the nail beds, making the nails susceptible to breakage. Nail clubbing can happen to your fingernails or toenails.
Most often, clubbing of the nails occurs due to reduced oxygen in the blood, which can indicate lung, heart, liver or kidney disease.
Studies have found that three out of 10 people who have non-small-cell lung cancer are likely to have this symptom.
Nail clubbing is also associated with inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary diseases and AIDS. Other possible causes include celiac disease, dysentery, Graves’s disease and an overactive thyroid gland.
If you’re experiencing clubbing of the nails, usually over the course of years, it is important to speak to your doctor.
6. Spoon Nails
Spoon nails, also known as koilonychia, is an abnormality of the nails from which they become abnormally thin and flat or even concave in shape. It is more common in fingernails, but it can be seen in toenails, also.
A 2012 study published in the Permanente Journal reports that spoon nails is a sign of chronic iron deficiency, which may be due to malnutrition, gastrointestinal blood loss, worms, gastrointestinal malignancy or celiac disease.
This type of nail problem resolves after a patient starts iron replacement therapy; however, it will take several months for the nail shape to return to normal.
Other possible causes of spoon nails include high altitudes, hypothyroidism, heart disease, hemochromatosis (excess iron absorption), trauma, exposure to petroleum products and even genetics.
As spoon nails can be due to several reasons, a prompt evaluation for possible iron deficiency or another underlying cause is necessary.
7. Pitted Nails
Pitted nails means there are depressions and small cracks in the nails. Usually the depressions can be seen in the uppermost layer of the nail plate, which arises from the proximal nail matrix. These depressions vary in morphology and distribution depending upon the cause.
A 2009 study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology highlights the common causes of pitted nails, which include psoriasis, Reiter’s disease, lichen planus, vitiligo, alopecia areata, hemodialysis, eczematous dermatitis and chronic renal failure.
This kind of nail problem more commonly affects fingernails as compared to toenails.
Speak to your doctor if your nails are covered with pits or dents to determine the cause.
8. Terry’s Nails
Terry’s nails is a problem in which the nails become opaque with a narrow pink band at the tip.
A 1984 study published in Lancet found that 25.2 percent of 512 consecutive hospital in-house patients had Terry’s nails.
The study reports that this problem was found in patients suffering from liver cirrhosis, chronic congestive heart failure and diabetes mellitus.
Older people are at a higher risk of suffering from Terry’s nails. It can also be due to lack of proper nourishment, chemotherapy and an overactive thyroid. Terry’s nails have also been observed in HIV patients.
If most of your nails appear white with a narrow pink distal band, consult a doctor to rule out the possibility of a serious health problem.
9. Horizontal Depressions
Deep horizontal depressions on the nail beds are known as Beau’s lines. Interrupted nail growth causes grooves to form at the base of the nails.
Interrupted nail growth may be due to a previous nail injury or trauma, chemotherapy, a drug reaction, uncontrolled diabetes, circulatory diseases or an illness associated with a high fever like pneumonia or mumps. It can also be a sign of zinc deficiency.
Exposure to extremely cold temperatures can also result in Beau’s lines. A 2005 study published in High Altitude Medicine and Biology reports that a hypobaric environment at high altitude caused a disruption in nail matrix formation, leading to the appearance of Beau’s lines.
If you haven’t experienced any nail trauma and have Beau’s lines, consult a doctor immediately.