Your nails are a lot more than hardened extensions of your skin. They can tell you whenever there’s something wrong with your body. Your skin, nails and hair contain keratin, a type of fibrous structural protein. It keeps your hair and skin healthy. The outer layer of your fingernails and toenails is called alpha-keratin, and any damage to this layer could be a sign of a health problem.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), your nails reflect your health and overall well-being. For instance, any discoloration and thickening may be a sign of liver and kidney disease, heart and lung issues, anemia or even diabetes.
Pay more attention to the condition of your nails, and watch for the following changes:
8 warning signs you should never ignore
1. Concave (spoon) nails
This change is related to several internal health problems. Healthy nails usually curve upwards. If your nails are curved inwards, you may have a problem.
You may be dealing with a liver disorder called hemochromatosis, a condition in which the liver absorbs excessive amount of iron. Other health problems related to this change include cardiovascular disease, anemia and hypothyroidism.
2. Clubbed nails
This is the most striking change. The nails are all bulbish and have bright white pigmentation. You can notice the rising of the skin under your nail and the swelling.
Clubbed nails are usually related to AIDS, IBS, liver and lung disease.
3. Discolored nails
Healthy nails are usually pink. If you notice any discoloration, you may be dealing with a health condition. Dull nails indicate vitamin deficiency. Here are some other examples:
– Bluish nails indicate low blood oxygen levels
– Green-yellowish are a sign of bacterial infection
– Red streaks signal a heart valve issue
– White nails are a symptom of liver disease
– White streaks signal a kidney issue
4. Cracked, dry or brittle nails
You are probably dealing with a bacterial infection or hormonal imbalance. Thyroid disorders are sometimes the reason your nails are dry and brittle. Fungal infections make your nails powder-like, and affect about 12 of all Americans.
5. Rutted or pitted nails
Tiny holes or dips may be caused by trauma to the nails, but may also be related to the following health issues:
• Alopecia areata (immune disorder accompanied with hair loss)
• Tissue disorder
• Zinc deficiency
6. Parallel ridging
Horizontal ridges that are evenly-spaced (Beau’s lines) may signal nail trauma. This change may occur after a long bout of fever from other medical disorder. These lines may be caused by:
• Diabetes or pre-diabetes
• Zinc deficiency
7. Split nails
Split nails are common, but in this case the nails peel away in several layers. This condition may be related to:
– Long-term nutrition
– Nutrient deficiencies (vitamin C, folic acid and protein)
8. Proximal inflammation
The proximal nail fold is found right outside the cuticles. Proximal inflammation of the nail fold may be a sign of a connective tissue disorder such as lupus. Sometimes it’s caused by skin infection.
Take care of your fingernails
If you keep having problems with your nails, consult a specialist. Dermatologists can help you solve any problem with your skin, nails and hair, pointing you in the right direction. You will get some tips and advices on how to determine an underlying condition.
What to do?
– Use nail hardener
– Take biotin supplements (strengthens brittle nails)
– Use proper manicure tools and trim nails straight across (round the tips carefully)
– Clean and dry your nails
Stop doing this:
– Bite your nails
– Pull off hangnails
– Ignore nail issues
– Use toxic chemicals on your nails