Nails are considered a purely aesthetic feature. But, they are more than a platform for nail art and bright colors.
The color, shape, and texture of your natural nails are actually a window into your body. Nail abnormalities can reveal a lot about your overall health. Moreover, they are usually an indicator of a fungal nail infection or injury. However, they may be an indicator of a more serious underlying condition, including cancer. In addition, changes in the nail, like thickening or discoloration may be a sign of various health issues, such as diabetes, anemia, lung and heart conditions, and kidney and liver diseases.
That’s not all, the growth rate of your nails could also reveal a lot about your health. Namely, healthy nails grow about 3.5 millimeters per month. This can be affected by your nutritional status, chronic disease, trauma, medications, and even the aging process itself.
In case you see any dramatic changes in your nails, such as discolorations, swelling, or thickness or shape changes, consult a dermatologist.
Here Is What Your Nails Reveal about Your Health:
– Brittle, Dry, or Cracked Nails
In case you swim, wash dishes, or use nail polish remover too often, you may experience brittle, dry, or cracked nails. Moreover, if you live in a region with low humidity or your nails are exposed to toxic chemicals frequently, you may also experience these nail abnormalities.
A fungal infection or thyroid disorder, especially hypothyroidism could also lead to these nail abnormalities. You may also experience brittle nails because of vitamin A, B and C deficiency.
– Yellow Nails
There is no doubt that your nails could yellow with age or as a result of the frequent use of nail polish or acrylic nails. Also, smoking could stain your nails a yellowish hue. However, in case your nails are yellow, thick, and crumbly, then you may suffer from a fungal infection.
In some cases, yellow nails could also be associated with respiratory condition (chronic bronchitis), psoriasis, diabetes, or thyroid disorder.
– White Nails with a Strip of Pink
In case your nails are white with a narrow pink strip at the top, it may be an indicator of diabetes, kidney failure, congestive heart failure, or liver disease. Even though this can be triggered by aging, consult a dermatologist if you experience this nail abnormality.
– Dark Discolorations
Painful growths or black streaks on your nail may suggest you suffer from melanoma, which is the deadliest type of skin cancer. So, if you experience this nail abnormality, visit a dermatologist.
In case your nails have multiple dents or pits, it may suggest you suffer from psoriasis. Additionally, it could also be triggered by alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that contributes to hair loss, or connective tissue disorders, such as Reiter’s syndrome.
– Spoon Nails
If your nails curve upward at the edges, it could indicate you suffer from hypothyroidism, heart disease, excess iron absorption (hemochromatosis) or iron-deficiency anemia.
– Vertical Ridges
Aging may lead to vertical ridges, which means that these nail abnormalities aren’t a cause for concern. In fact, they could become more prominent as you get older. Furthermore, they could be caused by magnesium or vitamin B12 deficiency.
– Horizontal Ridges
These nail abnormalities could be caused by nail trauma or a serious health problem with a high fever, including pneumonia or scarlet fever. According to a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, John Anthony, horizontal ridges are triggered by direct trauma to the nail. They could also be caused by a more serious health issue, in which these nail abnormalities are noticed on more than one nail at a time.
What’s more, they could also be caused by severe zinc deficiency, circulatory disease, uncontrolled diabetes, or psoriasis. Also, some horizontal discolorations could be associated with carbon monoxide poisoning, arsenic poisoning, leprosy, malaria, or Hodgkin’s disease.
– White Spots
Nail trauma could contribute to small white spots on your nails. These nail abnormalities are not a sign of a serious health problem and will grow or fade out on their own. In some cases, white spots that don’t disappear may be an indicator of a fungal infection.
Enlarged and downward-curved nails may suggest lung disease and low amount of oxygen in your blood. Additionally, they could also indicate AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, and kidney or liver disease.
Nail Biting May Result in Infections
Nail biters are at a higher risk of developing a skin infection known as paronychia, which occurs around the nails. As you bite your nails, yeast, bacteria, and other microorganisms could enter through tiny abrasions or tears, thus resulting in redness, swelling, and pus around the nail.
In some cases, this painful condition has to be treated surgically. Moreover, the American Academy of Dermatology notes that bacterial infections triggered by nail biting are among the most common nail problems.
If you bite your nails and cannot break this habit, you may want to follow these recommendations:
- Start by keeping a journal in order to detect your nail-biting triggers, like watching TV, anxiety, or boredom, and then try to avoid the triggers
- Apply an unpleasant tasting substance to your fingertips, such as hot sauce, vinegar, or store-bought bitter-tasting nail products
- Keep your hands busy with certain activities, including knitting
- Keep your nails manicured or trimmed short
- Use electrical tape or Band-Aids to wrap your fingertips
- Use behavioral therapy, like the Emotional Freedom Techniques or habit reversal training
Keep Your Nails Healthy by Following a Healthy Diet
Following a balanced diet high in whole foods gives your body the right amounts of the minerals and vitamins it needs to function optimally. On the other hand, poor nutrition could contribute to various nutritional deficiencies and chronic conditions. Also, your skin, hair and hails will suffer.
Eat more protein, such as grass-fed meat, whey protein, and free-range eggs to keep your nails healthy. Plus, minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins (including vitamin B7 or biotin) present in berries, leafy green vegetables and other whole foods also have a positive effect on your nail health.
In fact, biotin plays an important role in metabolizing amino acids, fats, and carbohydrates. In addition, it is also responsible for strengthening your nails and hair.
Furthermore, biotin is also found in egg yolks from organic, free-range eggs. You may also want to consume more animal-based omega-3 fatty acids because they may help fight inflammation and keep your nails healthy.
Keep in mind that the perfect ratio of omega-3:omega-6 fats is 1:1. So, reduce your intake of vegetable oils and consume more animal-based omega-3 fatty acids from anchovies, sardines, and krill oil.
- Piraccini, Bianca. ˮNail Disorders: A Practical Guide to Diagnosis and Managementˮ;
- Wild, Donna. ˮThe Skin, Tongue and Nails Speak: Observational Signs of Nutritional Deficienciesˮ;