What Do Fingernails Say About Your Health?

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: June 18, 2014

Spring has officially arrived! For many of us our fingers and toes have not seen the light of day for months and we are eager to ditch the winter boots for flip flops.

Before heading to the nail salon, take a good look at your nails, as your nails can be an indicator of your overall health. Paying attention to your nail health is important as a wide variety of diseases can be detected by looking at the changes in your nails.

Nail abnormalities are problems with the color, shape, texture, or thickness of the fingernails or toenails.

If you are in overall good health, your fingernails tend to be smooth, semi-transparent, intact, somewhat curved, a slightly pink color with a possible white lunela ‘little moon’.

A few “normal” changes in the nail bed are to be expected due to aging.

  • Fingernails can become thicker, ridged, more brittle or darker in older people.
  • Leukonychia, or little white spots on your nails, are also common and usually nothing to worry about.
  • Fingernails that are yellow or whitish, thickened and crumbling or splitting could be afflicted with a fungal infection which can be treated by your doctor.
  • Pain or swelling around or underneath the fingernail could be nothing more than the aftermath of a hangnail. See your doctor if it doesn’t clear up in a couple of days, or if there are several fingers affected.

There are a few more serious conditions associated with the nail symptoms. But, keep in mind, experiencing any of these nail symptoms doesn’t automatically determine that you have that disease or condition. Take comfort in knowing that in most cases of serious disease, you’ll typically notice other symptoms too before your nails give you indication. If you experience any of the following symptoms it talk to your about these changes.

  • White nails- Liver diseases, such as hepatitis
  • Yellowish, thickened, slow growing nails- Lung diseases, such as emphysema
  • Yellowish nails with a slight blush at the base- Diabetes
  • Half-white, half-pink nails- Kidney disease
  • Red nail beds- Heart disease
  • Pale or white nail beds- Anemia
  • Pitting or rippling of the nail surface- Psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis
  • Clubbing (a painless increase in tissue around the ends of the fingers, or inversion of the nail)- Lung disease
  • Irregular red lines at the base of the nail fold- Lupus or connective tissue disease
  • Dark lines beneath the nail- Melanoma

If your nails reflect one of the serious conditions described above, it’s important to address the underlying health concern. Your nails will improve when your health improves. In most cases, a healthy balanced diet and good personal hygiene will ensure healthy nails and a healthy you.

How to keep your fingernails healthy:

  • Moisturize your nails- Nails are made of keratin which is also found in our hair and skin. An important step in having healthy nails is to moisturize them regularly.
  • Eat a balanced diet- Healthy nutritional choices include omega-3-fatty acids, lean proteins and iron to help support healthy hair, skin and nails.
  • Take precaution when clipping nails- It is recommended to always clip nails after a bath when nails are moist and soft, never clip dry nails. Trim the tips of nails in a rounded way without clipping too deep into the skin
  • Applying polish- It is recommended to always use a good quality nail color. Do not use nail polish remover more than twice a month as it makes nails very dry and brittle. Instead reapply polish if it peels off.
  • Quit biting your nails- chronic nail-biter, try to quit the habit — it can lead to nail deformities, as well as infections.

In closing, nails are not all about glitter and polish. Your nails provide clues to your overall health.