7 Surprising Things Your Nails Say About Your Health

Danielle Dent-Breen's picture
fingernails about your health

Throughout the years, nail fashions have changed and evolved. Whether you prefer short, neatly trimmed natural fingernails, or today’s hot stiletto style, we view nicely manicured nails as a sign of good grooming. But did you know that besides defining your style, your nails can actually tell more about you? Keep reading for seven surprising things your nails say about your health.

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What your nails say about your health

1. Vertical Ridges:
Vertical ridges in your nails, though somewhat unsightly, are usually nothing to be alarmed about, and are most often a normal symptom associated with aging, much like wrinkles in the skin. Severe ridging, however, has been identified as a sign of some vitamin deficiencies, notably, B12 and magnesium.


2. White Spots:

Small white spots in the nail bed are almost always related to nail trauma. They should gradually grow out with time. Less commonly, white spots that do not go away may be a sign of a fungal infection.

3. Discoloration:

  • Yellow: Most commonly, nails may be colored yellow by long-term exposure to nail polishes, especially those that are highly-pigmented, such as black or red. Yellow nails can also result from exposure to cigarette smoke. (If you smoke, please see this article for tips on how to easily stop smoking for good.) Nails can also take on a yellow hue in the presence of several health conditions such as thyroid problems, jaundice, lung infections, and lymphedema.
  • Green/Black: This is an indication of a bacterial infection that usually occurs under loose nails. If you regularly indulge in manicures and pedicures, please see this article for more information about choosing a nail salon that won’t put you at risk of infection.
  • Grey/Blue: Can be caused by use of certain medications, such as those used to treat Malaria, and can be a sign of psoriasis, alopecia areata, or silver poisoning.
  • Black Nails or Dark Vertical Streaks: This is actually quite common for dark skinned persons of African descent. In fact, black people have a 75% prevalence of benign nail hyperpigmentation with darkened nails or dark streaks. If, however, only a single nail is involved, especially at first, or lines are in a particularly linear arrangement, it is very important to see your doctor to rule out Subungual Melanoma, a rare but serious type of cancer. Darkened nails can also be side effect of medications, specifically the chemotherapy drug Cytotoxan, and excessive fluoride supplementation. Finally, people in chronic renal failure (kidney failure) may experience dark brown discoloration of their nail beds.
  • White: The most common cause of white or very pail nails is low iron anemia, but white nails can also be a result of trauma, chronic liver disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or congestive heart failure.

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4. Dry, Cracked, or Brittle Nails:
This is a common issue that is usually a sign of dryness of the nail plate, from frequent exposure to water when swimming or dishwashing, for example, or overuse of nail polish removers, chemical exposure, or aging. However, if your nails don’t respond to regular use of moisturizing lotions and creams, see your doctor, as it could be a sign of hypothyroidism.

5. Clubbing:
Clubbed nails—where the ends of the fingers swell and the nails become very rounded and curved—can sometimes be a sign of liver or kidney disease. If you are noticing a change in the shape of your nails, speak to your doctor about this concern.

6. Spoon Nails:
The opposite of clubbed nails, spoon nails are very thin and show a concave shape. This is often a sign of iron deficiency anemia, and can be treated with iron supplementation.

7. Pitting:
Nails that are covered with pits or dents could be a sign that you have psoriasis, which does not always manifest only on the skin, but also can show on your nails.

Don’t ignore your fingernails and the things that they say about your health. Take a closer look at your nails more often to keep an eye on your overall health.

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Comments

I have been quite aware of my 'nail health' the past few years as I see them changing as I work on my diet and over all health. I was so glad to see that once I started taking and eating the right food and whole food supplementation for my body, the cracks, lines and indents that were forming started going away! It was clear evidence that my body was getting more of what it needed. Thanks for this information.
Yes, it's actually quite fascinating to realize how much our overall health is reflected in something so seemingly benign as our fingernails, isn't it? It really makes you realize how good nutrition affects every single system in our bodies! So glad to know that you have been able to improve your health status in this way. What changes did you make to your diet? Did you add any specific supplements that you feel made a drastic difference in the appearance of your nails?
Honestly the improvement directly corresponded to me starting a specific whole food supplement backed with naturally occurring antioxidants. It was an exact fit for what my body needed, in that way. I even had an experience after eating it for some time and then running out for 2 weeks, and my nails started going back to how they were - with internal damage. Again, as I started up again, they cleared up! My nails have turned out to be just one of the many 'canaries in the coal mine' for me to know if I'm on the right track with my health.
Wow, that is so interesting! Thanks for sharing! I like that analogy.."canaries in the coal mine".