(210) 698-0500 | info@vistadermsa.com

What can your fingernails tell you about your health?


Clues about your health could be right at your fingertips. Look at your nails. They could be telling you something about possible health concerns.

Many nail changes are normal and are nothing to be worried about. But sometimes changes in the way they look and grow can be a sign of disease. Fingernails are actually specialized skin cells. They’re made of keratin, a protein also found in your hair and skin.

Your nails protect the ends of your fingers and toes. They also help you grip objects and pick off small things. It would be harder to turn the pages of a book or pick up a thread without fingernails.

The part of the nail you can see is called the nail plate. Nails grow from a region at the base of the nail under the skin called the nail matrix. Here, new nail cells are made and packed together. Older nail cells are then pushed to the surface of the fingertip.

Possible concerns

Certain things can affect fingernail growth. A serious illness or fever can halt the process. The interruption can cause indentations that run horizontally across nails. These are called Beau’s lines. They can also result from injury to the nail, some vitamin deficiencies, and chemotherapy.

Tiny pits in the nail can also be a sign of disease. It’s common among people who have psoriasis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes red, scaly patches of skin. Nail pitting is also linked to an autoimmune condition that causes hair loss, called alopecia areata.

If your nails start to scoop inward like a spoon, you may not be getting enough iron. Spoon-shaped nails, or koilonychia, can be a sign of iron-deficiency anemia. Because of a lack of iron, your body can’t make enough of the molecule that red blood cells need to carry oxygen.

Nail clubbing, where the nail tips enlarge and curve around the tip, is another nail problem. It could be a harmless trait that runs in your family. But it’s also linked to lung and heart problems.

Sudden changes

Changes in nail color are common. Yellow nails are often caused by nail fungus. In some cases, they can point to something more serious, such as lung disease.

If you notice that your nails have become mostly white, it may just be a sign of aging. But sometimes it’s due to serious conditions like liver and kidney disease or diabetes.

Dark streaks running down the length of the nail that appear suddenly should be checked to rule out skin cancer. Certain infections, especially of the heart, can cause red streaks to appear under the nails.

Talk with Dr. Muñoz if your nails start to look abnormal. Dermatologists are specialists in nail concerns. Call us at (210) 698-0500.

Information provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


Comments are closed.