Although nails are primarily made up of dead cells, they can indicate warning signs about certain health conditions, especially the ones related to the heart, liver, and lungs.
Finger nails normally grow about two to three millimeters per month whereas toenails grow at a relatively slower rate at almost one millimeter in a month. They tend to grow faster in summers than winters.
What Nails Say About Your Health?
More often than not, pale nails indicate malnutrition or anemia due to low red blood cell count. Iron deficiency also causes raised ridges on the nails.
However, they can also be taken as a warning sign for liver disease and even cardiovascular problems. Furthermore, diabetes, too, is associated with yellowing of skin and nails, possibly due to advanced glycosylation end products.
White nails with dark bands on the tips are common in elderly individuals. Such nails, however, can also be taken as a sign of congestive heart failure, hepatitis, cirrhosis of liver, or hyperthyroidism. White nails may be caused by protein malnutrition as well.
Yellow nails, particularly toenails, are mostly considered as a sign of fungal infections. If not treated in time, the infection may worsen and lead to cracked, brittle nails that eventually thicken and become lusterless. Nail fungus affects the appearance of the affected nail or nails.
Moreover, if you have psoriatic nails then your nails are likely to have a yellow or yellow-pink discoloration seeming like a drop of oil under the nail plate accompanied by splitting or pitting of the nail bed. Unusual yellow tint in nails, especially fingernails, may indicate severe thyroid disease, diabetes, or lung disease.
Besides, in rare cases, yellow nails may also be caused by Yellow Nail Syndrome, which is associated with systematic disorders like lymphedema and compromised respiration.
More often than not, nails turn bluish when exposed to cold temperatures. Nails can become bluish due to poor circulation and lack of oxygen in the body.
Thus, presence of blue nails along with blue lips can point toward chronic bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, emphysema, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), or low hemoglobin. In certain cases, it may be an indicative of heart problems.
Reddish-Brown Lines Under Nails
Red or reddish brown lines resembling splinters beneath the nails, if not caused by injury, warn against vasculitis or heart valve infection. Malnutrition and thyroid disease, on the other hand, is likely to cause brown nails.
It has been observed that individuals suffering from kidney failure tend to have half white and half brown/pink nails. Moreover, wearing nail paint for a prolonged time can stain your nail yellow or brown. This discoloration, though, shall fade over time.
Thyroid disorders often cause the nails to become dry and brittle, thereby leading to split or cracked nails. Plus, fungal infections can cause the same. Calcium and vitamin A deficiencies also result in brittle nails.
Though not common still, reactive arthritis, too, can be a reason behind thickened or crumbly nails. Besides, gnawed nails due to the habit of nail biting or picking are related to persistent anxiety, aggression, and stress. It may be linked with obsessive compulsive disorder as well.
Nails that appear concave and almost scooped away from the fingers can signify hypothyroidism. Moreover, iron deficiency anemia often causes scooped out nails having large depressions that can even hold a drop of fluid.
In hyperthyroidism, a nail at the ring finger or little finger tends to separate itself from the nail bed, especially along the sides or at the tip.
Besides, spoon nails are considered as a sign of lupus erythematosus or cardiovascular problems, as well. In addition, it can be a symptom of a liver condition called hemochromatosi. Nevertheless, nail trauma, contact dermatitis, and fungal infections can also lead to lifting of the nail.
Furthermore, indentations, horizontal ridges, or grooves on nails (Beau lines) are often caused due to circulatory disease, uncontrolled diabetes, zinc deficiency, or after mumps, measles, high fever, pneumonia, severe injury, etc.
Watch this video giving information on possible health conditions that can be identified by examining the nails.
White Spots on Nails
It is normal to have occasional white spots on nails, often occurring due to minor traumas to nails that go unnoticed. However, when not caused by an injury, it can be a sign of zinc, iron, or calcium deficiency.
Clubbing of Nails
Such nails are characterized by curved nails around the fingertips to accommodate for wide tips of fingers. This is normal for many people.
Nevertheless, it may be caused by low levels of oxygen in the blood. It may indicate lung disease, liver disease, cardiovascular disease or inflammatory bowel disease.
Dark Lines under Nails
This is usually common in people with dark skin. However, if you notice dark stripes only on a particular nail then it may be a cause of concern because it can be a sign of subungual melanoma. Besides, intake of minocycline (used to treat bacterial infections) or antimalarial drugs can give rise to grey nails.
These changes in the color and appearance of the nails, however, are best identified by experts. So, pay attention to abnormalities in your nails and let your doctor have a good look at them to help you learn more about your health.