From vitamin deficiency and fungal infection to skin cancer, the nails on your fingers and toes can reveal surprising details about the state of your health.
Although nails are dead – that’s why it doesn’t hurt when you cut them – they are delicate. And since they are up to 10 times more absorbent than skin, they are vulnerable to external elements; hence, the frequency of breakage and damage.
Nails are also where the first symptoms of a health issue can show up, so it is important to pay attention to any new or unusual growths. If symptoms persist or you experience pain and swelling, consult a dermatologist.
If your hands are frequently exposed to water or chemicals – for example, washing dishes – your nails can become dry and may start to crack. Brittle nails may also be caused by a deficiency of either vitamin A, B or C, so examine your diet. Get yourself checked too, for hypothyroidism, as poor blood circulation and metabolism affect protein production, hence the health of nails.
Yellow nails are commonly associated with fungal infection and excessive use of nail polish. It can also point to the onset of lymphoedema, where fluid accumulates in the tissues and results in swelling. Diabetes is another cause, especially if accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue: nails turn yellow when glucose attaches to collagen proteins in the nails.
Do your nails look as if they curve outward and bulge, like the round part of an upside-down spoon? Unless you were born with them, this could indicate lung disorders, such as chronic pulmonary disease, or cystic fibrosis. Although the jury is still out on how the diseases affect nail growth, doctors believe the key lies in low oxygen level in the blood.
Vertical ridges are a typical sign of ageing and extreme stress levels. Pay attention if the ridges are horizontal – known as Beau’s lines, they could be a result of psoriasis, uncontrolled diabetes or a circulatory disorder. Don’t confuse them with Mees’ lines, which can appear in people who have been exposed to arsenic poisoning or suffering from Hodgkin’s disease, a type of blood cancer.
Good news #1: they are not caused by a calcium deficiency. Good news #2: they will grow out as your nails grow out completely. These white spots are known as leukonychia and result from nail trauma, such as getting your fingers caught in a closing door. It’s bad news, however, if your nails turn completely white, which could signal liver disease.
Dark Streaks Or Growths
This is more concerning – get checked out by a dermatologist in case cancer is suspected.