Generally speaking, our bodies are pretty good at letting us know that something is wrong. We might not know what’s wrong, exactly, or why, but we can usually sense the warning signs or the presence of an ailment. We might wake up feeling fatigued or nauseous, or we might get a visual cue, like a sudden rash or outbreak. Sometimes, however, these signs are more subtle, and we may not know where to look to keep tabs on our overall health.
Believe it or not, your fingernails might cue you into deeper health concerns. Let’s discuss how your nail shape can help you understand and treat your health.
Your fingernails and health are linked. Human bodies are complex machines, with every part affecting another to maintain the entire system. When something goes haywire in one part of our body, other parts of our bodies may react, too, including our skin, gums, and fingernails. While many nail abnormalities are isolated, minor, and easily treated, some problems may indicate a deeper health issue.
These potential issues indicated by your fingernails include skin infections, fungal infection, heart problems, high blood pressure, arthritis, and even cancer. Therefore, it’s important to take nail problems seriously, examining them on a regular basis as you would examine other parts of your body. If you’re unsure whether or not a nail abnormality is signaling a more serious health issue, reach out to a trusted physician for clarity.
What to Look for When Examining Your Nails
Even though our fingernails are often in our sight, many of us don’t pay much attention to them until it’s time to clip, clean, or paint them. As a result, we might not always know when something has changed about the appearance of our nails. In short, there are three main aspects of your fingernails to keep an eye on: shape, texture, and color. If your nails experience a significant change in any of these three categories, this might indicate a deeper health problem.
Here we’ll go over some specific nail shapes and abnormalities and what they might suggest about your overall health.
If your fingernails are beginning to yellow around the edge or cuticle, you may have a fungal infection. Most minor fungal infections will go away with proper care and treatment. However, fungus can cause your nails to deteriorate and also lead to further complications such as bacterial infection. In rarer cases, yellow fingernails may also point to psoriasis, thyroid disease, lung disease, or diabetes.
All healthy nails should feature some white near the cuticles and at the edges. However, if your nails are becoming mostly white, there may be something wrong with your liver. This type of fingernail discoloration is known as Terry’s Disease and should be evaluated by a professional immediately.
Whenever our skin turns blueish-purple, it either indicates bruising or poor circulation. When it comes to fingernails, if they’re looking blue or purple, this typically suggests that your body is not receiving enough oxygen. Your extremities often take the hit and give you the signal when the oxygen supply is low. In other words, blue-ish fingernails might mean you’re facing lung disease, heart problems, or respiratory issues.
Anyone who has accidentally brought a hammer down on their fingernail or gotten their finger stepped on with a cleat might be familiar with the severe, dark bruising that can occur underneath one’s nail. However, if your nail has not sustained some kind of impact-related injury such as these, dark lines under your nails might point to a much more serious problem. More specifically, these dark lines might come about from melanoma, a severe form of skin cancer.
Healthy fingernails are smooth and relatively level. Therefore, any protrusions, divots, and otherwise abnormal texturing on the nails are usually causes for concern. Bumpy nails or rippled nails may indicate psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis. Indented fingernails, also known as spoon nails, may point to an iron deficiency, heart disease, or hypothyroidism.
When in good health, your fingernails should also be sturdy and firm. If your nails begin to flake, crack, or split with ease, you may have a thyroid problem, fungal infection, or nutritional deficiency of some kind.
Inflammation around the nail fold or nail bed might simply be the result of a hangnail or minor infection known as paronychia. However, severe inflammation may also be related to serious connective-tissue ailments such as lupus.
Of course, your fingernails are not crystal balls or magic maps. Plenty of diseases can still occur without your nails giving any notice at all. Still, if and when your fingernails do appear atypical, there may be a deeper underlying problem with your overall health. And if you’re ever unsure about what your nails may be telling you, consult a medical professional for an examination.
At Premier Dermatology Partners, we’re familiar with the various ways fingernail shape, discoloration, and texture can indicate skin problems and diseases. Allow our experts to give you the advice, care, and treatment you need for healthier skin. To learn more about our team and all the services we provide, contact us.