8 Health WARNINGS Your Fingernails May Be Sending

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Healthy Fingernails

Are your fingernails healthy, or sending you a health warning?

Fingernails and disease don’t go together in most minds… but they should. Your fingernails can give you valuable health warnings and signal the presence of serious disease.

Take a good long look at your nails. Hold a hand level with your nose about a foot out from your face and scrutinize each one.

Look at the curves, dips, ridges, and grooves. Check out how thick or thin they are and if your nails are chipped or broken. Make a note of the color of the nail itself, the skin under it, and the skin around the nail.

Check your memory — have your nails always looked like this? Changes to your fingernails and disease onset are linked, so note any new developments. With this fresh view, compare what you see with this list of eight potential fingernail health warnings.

 1. Discolored nails

A healthy fingernail should be pink with a touch of pinkish white (moons) near the base. If your nails are a dull color or streaked with other colors, you may have a serious hidden health problem.

  • Green nails are a sign of bacterial infection
  • Red streaks in your nail bed are a warning of a heart valve infection
  • Blueish nails signal low oxygen levels in your blood
  • Dull nails mean a vitamin deficiency
  • White nails may signal liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • Dark stripes at the top (Terry’s nails) are associated with aging and congestive heart failure

Scrub those nails clean and really look at your nail color! Given the “rainbow” of potential health challenges, you want to be sure you see what your fingers are saying.

2. Thick nails

Thick nails are not natural. You want your nails to be strong, but if they resemble talons or claws more than traditional nails watch out!

  • Thickened nails that are otherwise normal can signal lung disease
  • Thick and rough-textured nails can signal a fungal infection
  • Thick and separated nails may mean thyroid disease or psoriasis
  • Unusual thickness may also be a symptom of a circulation problem

Thickening nails are a change that should tune you in to other health symptoms you may be ignoring. Also watch out for allergic reactions to new medications which can show up as suddenly thick nails!

3. Split nails

Split nails aren’t just occasionally chipped or shut in doors. Instead, these nails seem to flake away in layers. Don’t blame frequent handwashing or nail polish for everything, especially since:

  • Split nails result from folic acid, Vitamin C, and protein deficiencies
  • Split nails combined with a pitted nail bed (base) can signal psoriasis, which begins in nails 10% of the time according to WebMD
  • Split nails may result from chronic malnutrition

Watch what you eat and check the psoriasis connection to fight back and pay more attention to your health overall.

4.Concave (Spoon) nails

Spoon fingernails signal a number of internal issues. To be considered full spoons, nails will be soft and curve up, forming a dip that is often big enough to hold water. Spoon nails signal:

  • Iron deficiency (usually from anemia)
  • Hemachromatosis, a liver disorder where your body absorbs too much iron
  • Heart disease
  • Hypothyroidism

Your fingernail and health challenges go hand in hand — for many people, clearing up their health issue results in their spoon nails returning back to normal.

5. Pitted nails

Small dips or holes in your nails can be a result of banging up your hands — or they could be a sign that you need to look more closely at your health. Nail pitting can signal:

  • Psoriasis
  • Connective tissue disorder
  • Alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss
  • Zinc deficiency (when the pit seems to form a line across the middle of your nail)

Watch your hand to separate natural dents and dings from real, lasting pits. The first will clear up quickly, but pits linked to disease linger.

6. Ridges

Nails should have smooth surfaces with almost imperceptible lines. Obvious ridge lines are a signal that something is up with your body. Some of the most common conditions associated with heavy ridge lines are:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • Lupus (for red lines at the base of your nails)

Don’t just buff away your ridges — hear their warning!

7. Dry, brittle nails

You don’t need lotion or cuticle oil. If your nails are dry and brittle, you should check your hormone levels and bacterial health.

  • Thyroid disease leads to brittle, dry fingernails that crack and split easily
  • Fungus can make nails dry or even crumbly, affecting 12% of all Americans according to the American Academy of Dermatology

Both thyroid and fungal issues take time to treat, so you won’t see a difference in the look of your fingernails for a full growth cycle.

8. Clubbed nails

If you have plump skin that seems to swell around the nail, or if your nails seem to have puffed around your fingers, they are said to be “clubbed”. Clubbed nails can mean:

  • Lung disease, especially if you already have trouble breathing
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Liver disease
  • AIDS

Your fingernails won’t be the only signs of these diseases, but they can provide confirmation or motivation to seek medical care.

Don’t ignore your hands or the health warnings they send. Fingernails and disease are more closely related than you think — check your nails often to protect your health!

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References

Trimarchi, M. Top 5 Things Your Nails Say About Your Health. Discovery Health.

Mayo Clinic. Slide Show: 7 Fingernail Problems Not to Ignore. 2011 Dec 8.

Rauh, S. Healthy Fingernails: Clues About Your Health. WebMD.

Danoff, R. Can Fingernails Indicate a Health Problem? MSN Health.

Wikipedia. Nail Disease.

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Comments

  1. Margo Rose Smith says

    Thank you for the information about nails! I never realized before how the nails tell us about our health issues.

  2. Paul West says

    I’m also interested in the toe nails too. Seems like they are so much different than my finger nails. I’m sure that they have different “tells.” If you have that information, could you please pass it on. It’s interesting and can change lives, I’m sure.

  3. Margie says

    Thanks for the good information regarding finger nail health and body health. I would love to see information on tongue health and body health. I have deep crevaces in the middle forward part of my tongue and it sometimes gets sore. I know this must coralate to health issues but there is no information from doctors on this. Thanks for all the good health information you provide, you keep inproving, keep up the good work. Sincerely, Margie

  4. Maria Gay says

    I had to use drugs to eliminate H. pylori bacteria. It caused the nail beds on all my fingers (half moons) turn purple, when that grew out all my nails had dents in them. when the dents grew to the top of my nails the top part of the nails tore off and so far still not normal. This medication was taken approx in June 2011, it is now Januari 2012. The medication did not cure the pylori problem. Second time I took de medication it caused enormous pain from beginning Oktober 2011 till Dec. 2011 when I found a natural product to ease the pain. Pain has not quite disappeared. MG

  5. Patti Higgins says

    To Margie ~ I’ve been iron deficient for several years, and I know that some of the signs that my ferritin was low was when my taste buds were flat and my tongue became sore.

  6. Marilee says

    To Margie—Research Vitamin B deficiencies. A geographic tongue (looking like a topographical map) and a sore, shiny tongue tip, with few taste buds, are two of the classic B deficiency symptoms. Whole books have been written about Vit B deficiencies. Remember that the B’s are synergistic. If you increase one, you need to increase all of them. Extended increased intake of a single B vitamin can result in deficiencies in the other B vitamins. As this site repeatedly tells us, consider supplements to be supplements, not food replacements, nor magic pills to compensate for poor food choices. The Internet search features are helpful, as well as books, but the books concentrating on just the B vitamins are gold mines. CureZone is a self-help site with participants who come from all over the globe. It takes a long time to get your tongue in A-1 shape, again, but you can do it. Adelle Davis reported excellent B info in her books roughly 50 years ago, and much more info has been gathered from research in the intervening years. Good luck!

    To the Site: Thank you for the nail info, especilly the pics. I have also been told that convex fingernails, or nails that are domed on top, with the tips aimed downward, are called club fingernails (but I’ve not seen this in writing), and are an indication of congestive heart failure in the making. Three people I knew with nails like those did, in fact, die of congestive heart failure. A 50-something mother and her 30-something daughter have those distinctive fingernails, though, and, so far, neither has been given that diagnosis, although I don’t know whether they’ve asked about the significance of their nails or had their hearts checked. I suspect that they only see a doctor when home remedies for a problem are unsuccessful.

    I’d like to know why my nails curve around into the flesh. From the tips, they look like a segment of a cylinder that has been cut vertically and stuck down into the nail bed. My mother’s were the same way, but my siblings have normal nails. I’d also like to know why some people have nails that tend to curl at the cut ends. I’ve seen many newborns with nails that curled, and my sister’s toenails still curled in her 60s. Maybe somebody knows the answers to my questions? Best wishes to everyone.

  7. Dot Bardarson says

    All my nailes look perfect except the middle nail on my right hand which has a white streak that goes from the tip to the cuticle. It splits along that line. I need the nail to play the guitar, so I take a T bag and cut it in the shape of the nail. My husband glues it on with Nail Glue (or superglue). Then I trim the edge to the shape I want. Since doing this, the nail is growing out and I hope one day that the split will not reappear. I’ve had the problem with this nail for a year and a half, but I think I’m on the right track with the T bag method of repair. On the other hand, the white thin line is still there, so I imagine the nail is vulnerable to another split. Should I be nourishing it topically or with special diet?

  8. Patricia says

    Half crescents at the base of the nails are also an indication of health. The more you have them the healthier you are. I believe as we get older and older, the size is getting smaller and smaller until it totally disappear.

    God bless and good health for such good information for health awareness.

  9. Carmencita Caliliw says

    Thanks , this is very informative . I didn’t realised that just by looking @ fingernails you will know what wrong with your body.

  10. Elsie Morgan says

    I used to bite my nails way into adult hood, and stopped wen I got my dentures, (I am a 83 year old senior).) My problem is on the outside of some of my nails nail there are “growths” that grow independant of the whole nail, like slivers, of sorts and I trim them to stop them from
    snagging my clothes made of various fabrics. And it also catches my hair, and often breaks it off. I want to know how to stop those slivers from growing. Are they ingrown nails, similar to ingrown toenails?
    I would like my nails to grow attatched to the sides all the way up to the top of the finger.
    . I do hope I have made myself clear.I have been told to use geletin powderpackets, mixed
    with vasaline. before going to bed to strengthen my nails. Does that treatment really work. I might mention that when I was 21 I had an upper right lobectomy, but no lung problems since, I do have Sjogrens Syndrom, Asthma, and use a Coped Inhaler. I no longer have pedicures because I now have a fungus I cant, seem to get rid of even with medication. Please address these issues if you can.. I really would like to get rid of what ails me.

  11. April says

    Thank you for a very informative article. I have severe thyroid disease, although it was surgically removed years ago (it has since regrown w/cysts and nodules, but no signs of cancer). Now I was diagnosed with adrenal disease. Your description of my nails is totally accurate. I’ve been told there is no cure other than taking artificial hormones. Although my blood test results appear normal, my nails still look the same.

  12. Marc says

    Hola! I’ve been reading your website for a long time now and finally got the courage
    to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Tx!

    Just wanted to say keep up the good work!

  13. ALI says

    Your articles are very beneficial to many, Since I started reading them, my pain have reduced and believe that one day I will be R.A free.

    Keep on helping people and God will reward you.

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