There is a common saying that the eyes are a window to a person’s soul. What many people don’t realize is that our fingernails and toenails also tell us much about our own well being and health. Nail health often reflect our general state.The health of your fingernails and toenails can be a clue to your overall health.

Proper Grooming and Personal Hygiene

Most people consider nail grooming a part of proper personal hygiene. Some choose to groom their own nails, while others opt to have their nails done by professionals. Thanks to this fact, an estimated 69,700 nail salons have sprouted up all over the US, according to figures as of 2016.

Aside from basic hygiene, many people indulge in locally-available nail enhancement procedures and treatments as a form of self-expression and to boost one’s looks. As a result, as of 2016, the U.S. nail polish industry reportedly grew in worth to $759 million.

Many people from around the globe primarily consider their nails as a fashion statement, but our nails can also provide us insights to our overall health. You may not realize it, but your nails can tell you if you need to have yourself checked by a professional medical practitioner.

Some conditions are merely embarrassing, but knowing more about them will allow us get help as needed. Abnormalities seen in the nails can point towards both relatively superficial to more alarming ailments.

Cracked, Brittle, or Dry Nails

These may be caused by various reasons, not the least of which include lifestyle choices as well as your local climate. Exposure to some chemicals such as those found in cleaning products, frequent use of nail polish remover, living in low humidity areas, and soaking your nails in water frequently and for long periods of time can lead to cracked, brittle, or dry nails.

In some cases, brittle nails may be caused by a deficiency in vitamins C and A, or the B vitamin biotin. Splitting and cracking nails may also be caused by hypothyroidism or by a fungal infection.

Gnawed Nails

In many cases, gnawed nails may be nothing more than a stubborn old habit. Although nail biting has been linked to obsessive compulsive disorders,  gnawed nails would likely be the least of your worries.

Unnatural Nail Color

Various kinds of nail discolorations are associated with different ailments. Pale nails can possibly be a sign of serious illnesses such as congestive heart failure, liver disease, anemia, or malnutrition.

Yellow nails are usually caused by fungal infections. If the infection worsens, the nails may eventually thicken and die. In rarer cases, yellow nails can indicate more serious conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, and thyroid disease.

When your nails turn blue, this is usually an effect of having low levels of oxygen circulating in your red blood cells. This can be caused by various reasons. It could simply be due to exposure to cold temperatures, which can force your blood vessels to constrict. This will make it difficult for the proper amount of oxygen-rich blood to reach your fingertips and nails.

On the other hand, blue-ish nails could also be indicative of something more serious such as COPD, asthma, pulmonary embolism, congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Dark discolorations beneath the fingernails signal the need for an immediate trip to a physician since it can be a symptom of melanoma, the most dangerous kind of skin cancer.

Spoon Nails

Spoon nails is a condition where nails look scooped out or curve upward at the edges, looking similar to a spoon. The depression on the nail can be large enough to hold a drop of water. In many cases, this could be a sign of a liver condition known as hemochromatosis a.k.a. iron-deficiency anemia. The most common type of hemochromatosis is caused by a mutation in the gene that controls the amount of iron you absorb from the food that you eat.

Vertical Ridges

In most cases, vertical ridges are a normal sign of aging and should not be a cause for concern. In some cases though, this can be due to a deficiency in some nutrients such as magnesium and vitamin B12.

Nail Clubbing

This condition occurs when the fingernails thicken and curve around your fingertips, a process that usually takes years. Clubbing can be a result of low levels of oxygen in the blood which can be linked to various kinds of lung disease. This condition is also associated with AIDS, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Onycholysis

This condition can be characterized by loose nails which can detach from the nail bed. The separated portion becomes opaque with a green, yellow, or white tinge. This can be caused by thyroid disease or psoriasis, a fairly common skin condition that speeds up the life cycle of skin cells. It is a chronic disease that often comes and goes.

Detached nails can also be caused by infection, injury, or be a reaction to a particular consumer product or drug.

Beau’s lines

These are lines or indentations that run horizontally across the nails. The indentations can appear as a sign of malnourishment. They may also manifest when a growth under the cuticle is interrupted due to injury or severe illnesses. Some conditions that are associated with Beau’s lines include peripheral vascular disease, uncontrolled diabetes, pneumonia, zinc deficiency, and diseases that can cause high fever. These include mumps, scarlet fever, and measles.

Expert Advice

These are just a few indications of possible illnesses that a person may have. It would be hard to give an accurate and complete diagnosis based solely on these symptoms, but it’s best not to ignore them.

Not only are these symptoms indicators of your health, but nail problems can really ruin your fashion and style. Therefore, it would be prudent to consult a medical practitioner and get professional treatment when faced with any of the listed concerns.

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