You may not know it, but you can tell a lot about your overall health just by looking at your fingernails. The subtle variations in color or texture on your nails may not seem like anything important to you, but these imperfections may very well give the trained eye a clue as to what's going on inside your body. Initial symptoms of health conditions ranging from lung disease to hepatitis may show themselves in the color or shape of your nails. Additionally, if your nails begin to change in appearance, it could be the result of a fungus infection or indicate lupus, anemia, or another systematic disease.
But don't freak out just yet. Keep reading to find out whether there is any health knowledge tucked under your nails.
Perfectly healthy fingernails are smooth. They have no grooves, ridges, discoloration, or spots. Imperfect nails look - well, imperfect. Thankfully, many nail abnormalities are normal and harmless. But that doesn't mean you can completely let your guard, as some nail issues may be indications of a more serious medical problem.
What connections can be made between your nails and your overall health? Check out the chart below to learn about more than one dozen possible connections between the appearance of your fingernails and serious health conditions.
|Fingernail Appearance||Possible Medical Condition|
|Yellow-colored, thick, slow-growing||Lung disease, emphysema|
|Dark lines showing under the nail||Melanoma|
|Yellow-colored with blush at base||Diabetes|
|White-colored nails||Liver diseases, hepatitis|
|Red-colored nail bed||
|Half-pink, half-white nails||
|White or pale nail bed||Anemia|
|Rippling, splitting, or pitting (small depressions)||
Psoriasis, Reiter's syndrome, alopecia areata
Clubbing (extra tissue at the ends of fingers,nail curves over fingertips, or the nail is inverted)
Lung disease, low oxygen, inflammatory bowel disease,
|Irregular red-colored lines at bottom of the nail||
Lupus, connective tissue
Lung condition, lack of
|Spoon nails (thin, soft, concave nail bed)||
Anemia, liver conditions,
|Persistent nail picking or biting||
|Brittle, dry, easily crack||
|Terry's nails (dark band on tip of nail)||
Liver disease, diabetes,
|Beau's lines (indentations running across the nail)||
Diabetes, peripheral vascular
If you notice your nails changing over time or if they appear to have any of the characteristics listed above, don't wait for things to get worse. Seek medical attention as soon as possible. While fingernail changes are rarely the first warning sign for disease, they may be an important piece to the diagnostic puzzle. If anything is suspected, your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist who is trained in deciphering between harmless or more serious nail conditions.
And don't fear going to the dermatologist. Because while nail issues can indicate something serious, many normal fingernail disorders are caused by nutritional deficiencies, injuries, or mere fungal infections that cause your nails to peel, crack, and change texture and color. Often, these infections can be treated with lifestyle modifications or prescription antifungal medications.