What Changes In Your Nails Can Mean To Your Health - Northstar Dermatology (2024)

What Changes In Your Nails Can Mean To Your Health - Northstar Dermatology (1)

The Secret Power Of Fingernails

Fingernails are a body part many people believe have little use. Nails look beautiful painted and manicured. About 30% of Americans cope with nerves though nail-biting. And nails help scratch that pesky itch. But what else are fingernails good for? Subtle changes can provide insight into someone’s current health. By looking at color, strength, or shape, doctors can predict and even diagnose health issues.

How can nails be a health check?

Nails are made of keratin, a protein also responsible for creating hair and skin. Because of keratin’s strong nature, the protein protects the sensitive nerve endings on the fingers. In fact, keratin is present in and around all cells and are building block for many internal functions. So when the body lacksvitamins, minerals, or has a disease, expect a fingernail reaction.

Nail color and health

Healthy nails should look pink on the nail bed and white when grown off the nail bed. Any other color could be a sign of a deficiency or disease. For instance, clear, pale nails can be a sign of anemia or poor nutrition. White nails, also known asTerry’s nails, are a sign of kidney disease, liver disease, or diabetes. Yellow nails can be a fungal infection, a thyroid issue, or a rare condition called Yellow Nail Syndrome. Persons with Brown, grey, and even green colored nails should check with a medical professional.

Other dangerous colors

While some nail colors would indicate a simple deficiency, other colors can be more serious. Noticed some red nails recently? Red nails could mean possible heart disease or kidney issues. Red nails are also connected to conditions likepsoriasisand lupus. Blue looking nails are signs of poor oxygen circulation, heart or lung issues. A vertical black stripe from the cuticle to the tip can be the most serious of all. Persons with subungal melanoma, a dangerous skin cancer, have noticed this color change. In cases of a mysterious color, check a dermatologist or doctor for an assessment.

Nail texture provide clues

Healthy nails should be smooth, clear, and strong. If fingernails become brittle, chipping and breaking easily, the damage could be a sign ofhypothyroidism. Recognized some little holes in the nail bed? The pitting could be a sign of psoriasis. Up to 35% of people with the condition will experience nail pitting. Changes in texture are also linked to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Vitamin B12, iron, zinc, or magnesium deficiencies can cause vertical ridges on the nail beds. While vitamins A and C deficiencies can cause nails to crumble or break easily.

Shape sends subtle signals too

While the color and texture can be fine, the shape of fingernails can indicate health issues. If nails grow detached from the nail bed, this could be connected tohyperthyroidismor fungal infection. Fingernails can also start growing upwards, taking the shape of a spoon. Also known as koilonychia, irregular growth can be a sign of anemia or cardiovascular disease. More serious shapes include nail clubbing, which could indicate a range of diseases including heart, liver, or AIDS.

Know your nails, know your health

Nails can provide valuable life-saving data. If the shape, strength or color change suddenly, see a doctor as soon as possible. The issue could be a treatable infection or a disease in the early stages. Whatever the health issue, thank the fingernails for the helpful health check.

What Changes In Your Nails Can Mean To Your Health - Northstar Dermatology (2024)


What Changes In Your Nails Can Mean To Your Health - Northstar Dermatology? ›

Healthy nails should look pink on the nail bed and white when grown off the nail bed. Any other color could be a sign of a deficiency or disease. For instance, clear, pale nails can be a sign of anemia or poor nutrition. White nails, also known as Terry's nails, are a sign of kidney disease, liver disease, or diabetes.

What nails indicate health issues? ›

If your nails turn yellow, thicken, and seem to stop growing, it could be a sign of something going on inside your body. Lung disease and rheumatoid arthritis can cause yellow nails. You may also have a serious nail infection, which requires treatment.

What do liver failure nails look like? ›

Terry's nails is a type of nail discoloration. The nailbeds look “washed out,” except for a thin reddish-brown strip near the tip. Often, Terry's nails is a symptom of a chronic condition, such as liver failure or diabetes.

What do B12 deficiency nails look like? ›

Nail changes in vitamin B12 deficiency present as hyperpigmentation of nails like bluish discoloration of nails, blue-black pigmentation with dark longitudinal streaks, and longitudinal and reticulate darkened streaks. The nail pigmentation associated with B12 deficiency is more frequent in patients with dark skin.

What do nails look like with heart problems? ›

Changes in nail shape and texture

Iron deficiency or overproduction may cause the nail bed's center to look like it had been scooped out, a condition known as spoon nails. Cardiovascular, pulmonary and gastrointestinal problems may also appear in the nails as curves around an enlarged fingertip, known as clubbing.

What does vitamin D deficiency look like in nails? ›

Hapalonychia (soft nails) has been associated with deficiencies of vitamins A and D among other causes. Longitudinal melanonychia of the nail plate has been reported in vitamin D deficiency.

What do kidney disease nails look like? ›

White streaking. People diagnosed with chronic kidney disease may notice white streaking or pale horizontal bands forming along the nail. This condition is known as Muehrcke's nail or Muehrcke's line, referring to Robert Muehrcke, a physician who first described this condition.

What do iron deficiency nails look like? ›

Koilonychia is an abnormal shape of the fingernail. The nail has raised ridges and is thin and curved inward. This disorder is associated with iron deficiency anemia. Leukonychia is white streaks or spots on the nails often due to drugs or disease.

What do diabetic fingernails look like? ›

In some people with diabetes, the nails take on a yellowish hue and become brittle. This is often associated with the breakdown of sugar and its effect on the collagen in nails. In certain cases, this yellowing of nails can be a sign of a nail infection.

Can your fingernails show signs of illness? ›

Ridges or ripples

Horizontal ridges, also known as Beau's lines, that run across the nail indicate that your nail growth slowed or stopped and that it could be related to a health condition. Common causes include high fever, vitamin deficiency, injury, diabetes and peripheral vascular disease.

What does zinc deficiency look like in nails? ›

Zinc deficiency can cause Beau's lines and white spots on your nails. Iron deficiency can cause vertical nail ridges and koilonychia (spoon nails). Spoon nails have a depression in the middle, like the center of your nail was scooped out. You may be able to hold a drop of water on your nail.

What do lack of oxygen nails look like? ›

Cyanosis is the medical term for when your skin, lips or nails turn blue due to a lack of oxygen in your blood. If you have darker skin, cyanosis may be easier to see in your lips, gums, nails and around your eyes. The word cyanosis comes from the word cyan. Cyan is a blue-green color.

What do calcium deficiency nails look like? ›

When your body lacks calcium, your nails become thinner, weaker, and brittle. You may notice that they break easily and just don't look as healthy as they used to. Although nails and bones are made up of different substances, they're similar enough that poor nail health may be an early marker of bone density problems.

What do nails look like with high cholesterol? ›

When the extra cholesterol narrows or blocks your arteries, it limits the blood flow to various parts of your body, including your nails. This can leave your nails with dark lines underneath them. These are thin, red to reddish-brown lines under your nails, as per MedlinePlus.

What do COPD nails look like? ›

Although COPD does not typically cause clubbing, it may affect the nail beds in other ways. People with COPD may develop low oxygen levels in the body, known as hypoxia. This may cause the nails, skin, and lips to become blue due to decreased oxygen levels. Doctors refer to this bluish color as cyanosis.

What do nails look like with lung problems? ›

Nails with a bluish tint can mean the body isn't getting enough oxygen. This could indicate a lung problem, such as emphysema.

What deficiency shows in nails? ›

Nutritional deficiencies can cause several changes in the shape and surface of nail plates. A central nail plate ridge can arise from iron deficiency, folic acid deficiency or protein deficiency. A central nail groove can result from iron deficiency.

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