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Can Your Fingernails Shine a Light on Your Health?

Written by Courteney

Posted on August 11, 2016 at 1:28 am


What could a doctor possibly glean about your health by simply looking at your nails? It turns out, potentially a lot. While nail abnormalities can signify one of the health problems listed below, it is important to remember that in many cases nail deformities are very minor and of no health consequence at all.

  1. Pits on the nails – Little dents or ‘pits’ are a common sign of nail psoriasis. Up to 85% of people with psoriatic arthritis have signs of nail psoriasis like pitting. Pitting can also be symptomatic of other autoimmune conditions (or may just be due to trauma to the nail).
  2. Nail ridges – Vertical nail ridges that run the length of the nail are very common and are not a cause for concern. Horizontal nail ridges, however, may be the result of an underlying health condition such as a skin or systemic disease.
  3. Blue or purple discoloration – Purple colored nails may indicate that someone is a smoker, has poor circulation, or anemia. Purple-bluish nails may be a signal an asthmatic (or person with another lung disease) has low blood-oxygen levels. Discolored nails should not be ignored, talk to your doctor (or one of ours) if your nails are blueish, purple or any other strange color.
  4. Yellow nails – These can be the result of a number of health conditions or may have just been colored by cigarettes or another substance. Yellowish nails could be the result of jaundice, an infection, lymphedema or sinusitis.
  5. Sporadic red or whitish nail discoloration – if your nails and fingertips change white in the cold or red in the heat, you may have a condition called Raynaud’s phenomenon (which often indicates a larger autoimmune problem).
  6. Nail clubbing – this nail condition is marked by a gradual widening of the fingertips and nails that grow downward over the fingertip. It is commonly associated with lung conditions that deplete blood-oxygen levels over time. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can also signify heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, AIDS or liver problems.
  7. White spots on the nails – More often than not, white spots on the nails are harmless. However, very rarely they can point to dehydration or a nail infection.
  8. Brittle, splitting nails – Also known as onychoschizia, easily cracked or split, soft nails are often treated by dermatologists but very rarely signify an underlying medical condition. The vast majority of cases are caused by exposure to harsh chemicals (like in nail polish and remover) or too much or too little moisture.
  9. Spoon-like nails – Koilonychia is the medical term for indented, spoon-shaped nails. They can signify systemic autoimmune diseases like lupus, anemia, or may be the result of an iron surplus.

Again, if you have any of these fingernail characteristics, it does not necessarily mean you have a resulting health condition, but you should have your doctor examine abnormal nails to rule out any underlying issues. Remember, our highly qualified DocChat physicians are around 24/7 to answer any health-related questions you may have for them. Thanks for visiting, we hope you’ll be back again soon!

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