While it's obvious your nails demonstrate your personal hygiene, grooming habits and even your individuality and flair for style, did you know they can also provide hints about the state of your overall health? Signs of underlying health issues can manifest through your nails' texture, thickness, color and shape, so it's important to check them out regularly for anything suspicious. Here are some common appearances your nails can acquire that correspond with health problems, so take a minute to examine your own nails and note whether they match up with any of the descriptions listed.
1. Short and Chewed Off
While biting your nails isn't typically a health condition on its own, this habit can cause issues. For one, biting your fingernails is unsanitary and can cause you to transfer potentially harmful bacteria from your fingers and under your nails into your mouth, where it can easily cause illness. Consistently gnawing on your nails can damage your teeth and also contribute to jaw problems by causing pain or issues with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), according to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign McKinley Health Center
. Chewing your nails repetitively and constantly may also be a sign of a psychological condition like obsessive-compulsive disorder.
2. Pale Nail Bed
Nails are normally pinkish in hue, but if they are looking closer to white or very pale, it could be a sign of the blood condition anemia. This might signify that you aren't receiving enough iron
in your diet, which affects the level of red blood cells in your blood. When you have low iron levels it can manifest through inadequate blood oxygenation, causing your skin and certain tissues, like those under your nails, to become pale, according to Shilpi Agarwal, M.D.
Pale nails may also be a sign of other health concerns, like congestive heart failure, malnutrition or liver disease.
3. Blue Hued
Nails that have a blue tint can convey that your body is lacking a sufficient amount of oxygen. This can be evidence for conditions that restrict and impair your breathing, like the lung disease emphysema. In addition, blue nails may also illustrate that your heart is unable to properly pump blood into your bloodstream.
4. Yellow and Thickened
If your nails are noticeably thicker than usual and have acquired an unpleasant yellow hue, then you may have a fungal infection. Yellow nails may also be a sign of psoriasis
, a skin condition.
5. Dark Brown or Black Lines
If you notice some dark stripes or spots under your nails, they could be a sign of a very serious illness, like melanoma. Many people don't realize that the sun's harmful UV rays can penetrate your fingernails, reaching your nail bed and potentially doing cancer-causing damage. Sunlight can't make it through colored nail polish, so if you're planning on being out in the sun for a significant period of time, you'll want to make sure your nails are protected before exposing them to the sun.
6. Raw, Bloody and Torn Cuticles
Many people who bite their nails also go after their cuticles and the skin around the nail bed. Tearing the skin around your nail beds can cause bleeding, which invites bacteria into the wounds to cause infection.
7. Horizontal Lines or Indentations
These kinds of depressions across your nails can commonly appear due to injury. However, these “Beau's lines” can also be a sign of an illness like uncontrolled diabetes, circulatory disease, zinc
deficiency or peripheral vascular disease. Other health conditions that are associated with a high fever may also play a part in causing these lines on your nails, according to Mayo Clinic
8. Clubbed or Inverted Appearance
You can identify clubbing by checking to see if the tips of your fingers are large and bulbous with the nails curving around them. Clubbed fingers and nails can mean that your blood is poorly oxygenated, or it can also be symptomatic of certain lung diseases. According to the Mayo Clinic
, clubbing may also be indicative of other issues like inflammatory bowel, liver
or cardiovascular diseases. In an extreme case, nail clubbing may also be a symptom of AIDS.
If you notice your nails mirroring any of these appearances or showing similarities, it's very important that you head to your local physician for an examination and appropriate treatment plan, if needed. Your nails could show the first sign of a serious illness, so be sure that you are familiar with their typical appearance so you can easily notice drastic changes, if or when they occur.
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