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Six nail appearances that may predict health issues

Tracy Woolrich's picture
Nails and health issues

Palmistry or chiromancy is the art of foretelling the future through the study of the palms. Many celebrities such as Oscar Wilde, Grover Cleveland, Thomas Edison and Mark Twain have reported visiting one in their day. The purpose was to have their palms analyzed and their future foretold. Some individuals are sold on this practice while others believe it to be nonsense. However did you know that there is a possibility that having your fingernails evaluated can give you a glimpse into your health and possibly your future? Read on and decide for yourself.

With that being said, I have to admit that I myself have not seen my natural nail bed for decades. I have had acrylic overlays on my finger nails since the 1980’s. The last I saw them they were dry, brittle and had ridges deeper than that a Ruffles potato chip. Therefore it is very possible that I may have an underlying thyroid or arthritic disease present. Neither would surprise me and I do have annual checks ups to monitor any possible overt issues. So what exactly do your nails say about you? Here are a few clues.

1. Nail clubbing

This type of nail bed is when the tips of your fingers are enlarged and your nails curve around the edges. This is a slow process that takes years to occur. It is most often associated with individuals who have low oxygen levels in their blood such as in emphysema. It can also occur with certain types of heart disease. As a nurse, I have seen this many times and find that it often occurs along with a yellowing of the nails as well. This often of course goes well with the nicotine stains of the skin from the continued smoking. That however is another story all together.

2. Nail pitting

As the name suggests, the nails are full of pinhead sized indentations. This is seen in individuals that have psoriasis or Reiter’s syndrome. Reiter’s is a connective tissue disease in the arthritis family that affects the eyes, skin, nails, mucous membranes and joints. Treatment usually entails symptom relief only.

3. Spoon nails

You can’t miss these. The nails become concave and scooped out. They eventually look like small contact lenses. This can be a sign of severe iron deficiency, anemia or a much more serious condition called hemochromatosis. This disease is more likely to be more serious in men than women and seen most often in Caucasians. It is caused by an excess of iron in your body. This extra iron can deposit in your organs and cause liver, heart or pancreas disease. The treatment for this is the act of routinely giving blood.

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4. Beau’s lines

These are lines that run horizontal on your nail beds. It can occur due to injury or high temperature spikes. However it can also occur in individuals with uncontrolled diabetes or peripheral vascular disease. It is thought to be due to a zinc deficiency as well. If you have these it is important to have your doctor check for diabetes with A1c monitoring. Expedient treatment of diabetes is crucial.

5. Thick hard brittle nails

This is thought to be due to poor circulation. You will see this more in toe nails than finger nails and is more common as we age as our circulation becomes more compromised. Peripheral vascular disease is a common cause. Keeping blood vessels healthy with omega 3 oils and grape seed extract may help prevent further damage.

6. Loose nail plate

This can be due to trauma or it may be caused by a fungal or bacterial infection. Some medications such as vitamin A preparations and long term use of tetracycline will cause this as well. Some forms of Chemotherapy can also cause the lifting of the nail beds even with total lift and loss. Other culprits include thyroid disease, lupus and Raynaud’s disease. Raynaud's is a circulatory condition that causes your fingers, toes, nose and ears to become numb in response to cold temperatures or stress. It is more prevalent in women.

Take home message

Our nails are tiny little reflections into our health and may be predictors of future health issues. Take a moment or two monthly and examine your unpolished nails. If you are like me and have acrylic or gel nails, examine your toes nails. Seek medical attention if there are any concerns.

Refernece: Mayo Clinic



Tracy, I like your sense of humor. You write with fun in mind. Having said that, I don't like the 'may or may not' kind of heading. What is this? A fifty fifty chance it may or may not work for you? This sort of information is fun, but useless! A bit like the researcher at the Museum of Natural History in New York who found that male cockroaches stay out later at night than female cockroaches
I hear you Hans. I agree and like to be concrete in my writing however I am not entirely sure if evaluating nails are 100% definitive. of hepatitis, diabetes or zinc deficiency. However it MAY be. I know...a politician fence sitting stance at best. I can however say with complete certainty that I do NOT like male or female cockroaches and that they all seem to stay out late at night here in Florida. 365 days a year. That and their cousin the Palmetto Bug which is a giant roach on steroids that flies at you. My LEAST favorite thing about living here in Florida. Thank you for your comment however.