Here’s what nail disorders say about your health

Did you know that your nails can provide clues to your general health? Normal, healthy nails should have a smooth appearance and a uniform color, but as you age, you may develop vertical streaks, or your nails may become a little more fragile. It’s safe and nothing to worry about. If you notice stains due to injuries on your nails, this should go away with the growth of the nail and should not be very important.

Anomalies that occur on the nails may also warrant further investigation. These quirks such as blemishes, discoloration, and nail separation can be a telltale sign of viral warts, infections, and certain medications, such as those used for chemotherapy.

Here’s what nail disorders say about your health:

White nails

If your nails are mostly white and darker around the edges, this may indicate liver problems, such as hepatitis. In the picture below, you can see that the fingers are also yellowish which is a sign of jaundice, which is another liver condition.

Very pale nails can sometimes be a sign of liver problems.

But very pale nails can sometimes be a sign of very serious health problems, such as:

  • Anemia
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Liver disease
  • Malnutrition

White spots

If small white dots or white spots appear on the surface of the nail and do not leave when you try to polish them to make them disappear, this is usually due to some type of trauma, even as simple as a finger that you have hit or cuticle care too aggressive. In this case, just give them time to disappear when the nail grows, but if they stay, see your dermatologist, as this could be the sign of other health problems such as leukonychia


Commonly called white nails or milk stains, leukonychia is more often located on the nails of the hands than on the nails of the feet and are often located in the middle of the nail. The surface of the normal nail should be pink, indicating good blood circulation below the surface of the nail.

These white spots are usually quite benign, although in some other situations they may indicate an underlying disease. It can be a bacterial or fungal infection or an unusual side effect of systemic chemotherapy. It can also be found in people who have arsenic poisoning, kidney failure, or respiratory illness. Contact with extreme cold could eventually lead to leukonychia progression but these spots will slowly disappear over time.

Yellow nail syndrome

With the yellow nail syndrome, nails thicken and new growth slows down. This results in yellowish discoloration of the nails. One of the most common causes of yellow nails is a fungal infection. As the infection worsens, the underside of the nail can retract, and the nails thicken, crumble, do not form the cuticle and the nail can come off in places.

Yellow nail syndrome is often a sign of respiratory illness, such as chronic bronchitis. It can also be linked to swelling of the hands (lymphoedema). In rare cases, yellow nails may indicate a more serious condition such as a serious thyroid condition, lung disease, diabetes or psoriasis.

Bluish nails

The medical term of blue nails is a cyanosis that may be indicative of various disorders and should be examined. While very cold temperatures may temporarily slow down the blood flow into the skin causing a bluish color, this color should disappear as soon as you warm up. In Raynaud’s disease, the fingers and toes blanch, then turn blue and may become numb or painful when exposed to cold. The problem is simply excessive sensitivity of the nerves that control blood flow in the small arteries of the fingers, toes, nose and ear lobes.

Green nails

Green nails are the result of a pseudonomas infection, which is usually caused by the environment. This means that those whose immune system is already weak are very sensitive to this type of nail infection that often makes the nail greenish.

Here’s what nail abnormalities say about your health: Pitted Nails

Small depressions or pickings in the nails are common in people with psoriasis which is a condition characterized by squamous patches on the skin.

This can also be related to connective tissue disorders, such as Reiter’s syndrome, alopecia areata, autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.

Wavy nails

If the surface of the nail is wavy, much like the pitted nails I spoke of just above, this may be an early sign of psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis. Discoloration of the nail is also common and the skin under the nail may have a reddish-brown color.

Split nails

Split or cracked nails are common nail disorders associated with the disease. Dry and brittle nails that are cracked or broken have frequently been associated with thyroid disease. The cracked nail associated with a yellowish color is probably due to a fungal infection.

Low levels of vitamin C, folic acid, and certain proteins in the diet are also known to cause nails that crack.

Ribbed nails

The ribs can be horizontal or vertical. Vertical veins can mean nutrition problems, dehydration or nutrient uptake problems. Horizontal ribs in the nail are often associated with diabetes, liver disease or other chronic diseases. Both types of veins can also be caused by nail lesions.

Dark lines under the nail

If you have dark skin, it is quite common to have streaks of melanin pigment at the base of your nails. However, you should always have this information checked by your doctor, as this can sometimes indicate a form of skin cancer called subungual melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Generally, this affects only one fingernail, and changes the appearance of the line, which becomes wider or darker with time. Pigmentation can also affect the skin around the nail.

Small brown streaks

These are dark, thin lines under the nail that could be tiny vessels bleeding under the nail. They are known as “filiform haemorrhages” and are not worrying if they are due to a nail injury. However, if some nails are affected, this can be a sign that one of the heart valves is infected, a condition called “endocarditis.” These filiform haemorrhages can also be associated with several other conditions, such as scleroderma, lupus, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Pearls or vertical ridges

It looks like vertical ridges or bulges, looking like wax drops from a candle. The pearls seem to run down the nail like wax and this is associated with endocrine or hormonal problems, such as diabetes mellitus, thyroid disorders, Addison’s disease, vitamin B deficiency, changes hormonal or stress.

However, just like with our skin, these “nail wrinkles” are usually caused by aging. They range from the base of the nail to the tip and usually start on one or two nails. Over time, the ridges can appear on all nails. Filing and polishing them gently can help smooth them.

Domed nails

The bulging nails can be hereditary and can be harmless. However, if they develop suddenly, they may be a sign of an underlying medical condition, and because of low levels of oxygen in the blood, resulting in various diseases such as pulmonary or heart disease .

With the curved nails, the natural angle is gone and the nails are at the same level as the top of the fingers. This may be Hamman-Rich syndrome, an acute interstitial lung disease (a form of pneumonia) characterized by inflammation of the lung. With advanced pulmonary interstitial diseases, clubbing and signs of heart failure may occur. It is also associated with irritable bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and AIDS.

Terry’s nails

This was named after Dr. Richard Terry and appears when the fingernails or toes appear white with a characteristic “frosted glass” appearance, without a lunula – that white area of ​​the crescent-shaped nail. With this condition, most nails are white, except for a narrow pink band at the tip. It is described as a brown arch near the ends of the nails.

Terry’s nails can sometimes be attributed to aging. In other cases, they may be a sign of a serious underlying illness. This condition may be due to decreased vascularization and increased connective tissue inside the nail, and often occurs in the setting of liver failure, cirrhosis, renal failure, diabetes mellitus , congestive heart failure, hyperthyroidism, and / or malnutrition.


This is the presence of longitudinal streaks or veins on the nail and this may be just a sign of advanced age, but may also be associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, peripheral vascular disease, lichen plan, and Darier’s disease (large white and red streaks of the nail). A central vertical ridge or groove (as pictured) may be due to myxoid cysts that appear near the base of the nail, which are associated with osteoarthritis.

Onychorrhexis mainly affects people who suffer from disorders. Malnutrition or poor nutrition can affect the health and growth of nails and make them brittle, any trauma or injury to the nails can also result in onchorrhexis. Repeated injury to the nail often leads to this condition. Those who work long hours with water and soap are also at risk, as are those who use too much nail polish, and those who are exposed to prolonged exposure to cold. Hypothyroidism is a glandular disease that results from a deficit in the production of thyroid hormone. The reduced thyroid production is due to a hypoactive thyroid gland. This is one of the main causes of onychorrhexis.

Bulimia is a condition that affects young women who become depressed after eating in excess and feel guilty about not controlling their diet and weight. Anorexia nervosa is another psychological illness in which the victim is obsessed with their weight and has the illusion of being too fat even if they are rather thin.

The diagnosis of onychorrhexis is not complicated because the disease has been detected mainly by the physical observation of the nails. Blood tests and thyroid level tests may be recommended if the doctor suspects an underlying condition such as hypothyroidism.

The medical treatment of onychorrhexis usually depends on the underlying condition. The treatment is supposed to vary depending on the nature of the disease that underlies onychorrhexis. Once the causes have been treated, the symptoms of onychorrhexis will also disappear soon.

The treatment of onychorrhexia at home involves medications like hand creams. A cream or lotion made from natural vegetable oils will keep the hand hydrated and help heal the disease. Regular application of moisturizers on the skin and nails will prevent the return of these symptoms.

Beautiful lines

Beau’s lines are indentations that pass through the nails and may appear early in the area under the cuticle and this phenomenon was initially described in 1846 by the French physician Joseph Honoré Simon Beau. The lines are caused by diseases that affect the entire body, including malnutrition, heart attack, liver diseases, serious infections such as mumps, measles, scarlet fever, pneumonia and metabolic disorders as a poorly controlled diabetes.

However, Beau’s lines can result from any disease process that is severe enough to affect the growth of the nail. Malnutrition and chemotherapy drugs for cancer can also cause Beau’s lines, just like a zinc deficiency. A trauma or injury can also be a cause of Beau’s lines or veins of the nail. The onset of the disease can be estimated by measuring the distance from the Beau line to the base of the nail.

Spoon-shaped nails

The spoon-shaped nails (koïlonychie) are soft nails that seem hollowed out. The depression is usually large enough to contain a drop of liquid.

Often, spoon nails are a sign of iron deficiency anemia or a liver disease called hemochromatosis, in which your body absorbs too much iron from the food you ingest.

Spoon nails can also be associated with heart disease and hypothyroidism.


The nails become loose and can become detached from the nail bed. The separate part of the nail becomes opaque with a white, yellow or green hue.

Sometimes detached nails are associated with an injury or infection, but in other cases, nail separation is a reaction to a drug or consumer product such as nail hardeners or adhesives. Thyroid disease and psoriasis can also cause nail separation.


Paronychia is the name of the inflammation that causes the fold of the nail painful inflammation, red and swollen, as well as the skin and soft tissue surrounding the nail.

Perionyxis can be acute, and develop in a few hours, or chronic, and last longer than six weeks, and is most often caused by infection, injury, or irritation. Sometimes, there is an underlying skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis or another disease such as diabetes or HIV, and is about three times more common in women than in men.

Bite one’s nails

Nail biting may be nothing more than an old habit, but in some cases it is a sign of persistent anxiety that could benefit from treatment. Nail-biting has also been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder, and the habit is often a means of relieving anxiety or keeping at least a busy part of the body while the mind is idle.

Frustration and loneliness are additional emotional triggers that can lead to nail biting. While some research suggests that genes may play a role, if you can not stop it is worth discussing with your therapist.

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