What your nails reveal about your health

The eyes can be windows to the soul, but nails can be doors to health. They can open up secrets to your overall health as well as provide clues about conditions or diseases you may not know about. But Dr. Jeffrey Linder, head of internal medicine and geriatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, says that some nail changes are simply the result of aging, so “it’s important not to worry if you notice anything abnormal,” he says.

Nail changes worth paying attention to:

Lunula color. According to AARP, the nails are shaped like a white crescent moon at the base, just above the cuticle. A change in color or size may indicate an underlying disease. For example, if the madness extends almost to the tip of the nail, making most of the nail white, it could be a sign of cirrhosis, chronic kidney failure, or congestive heart failure.

Yellow nails. One of the most common causes of yellow nails is a fungal infection, says WebMD. As the infection worsens, the nail bed may shrink and your nails may thicken and crumble. In rare cases, yellow nails may indicate severe thyroid disease, lung disease, or diabetes.

Waves. If the surface of the nail is wavy or wrinkled, it may be an early sign of arthritis. The cuticle under the nail can also turn reddish brown in color.

Bitten nails. The habit of biting your nails may indicate an underlying anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder. If you can’t stop biting your nails, consult your doctor, says WebMD.

Lines. A dark smudge that runs along the nails could be a sign of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. Contact your doctor or dermatologist immediately if you notice this sign.

Clubing. Nail knocking occurs when the tips of the fingers grow in size and the nails curve around the fingertips, usually over the years, says the Mayo Clinic. Nail batting can indicate low blood oxygen levels from different types of lung disease. Nail knocking is also associated with inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and AIDS.

Pitting. The dimples on the nails that resemble ice skewers are called nail pits and are common in people with psoriasis. Nail pitting is also associated with connective tissue disorders such as alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.

Beau Lines. These are dimples that run horizontally across the nails and are associated with uncontrolled diabetes and peripheral vascular disease, as well as diseases associated with high fever such as scarlet fever, measles, mumps, and pneumonia. Beau’s lines are also a sign of a zinc deficiency, says the Mayo Clinic.

blue tint. Nails that appear bluish could be a telltale sign of COVID-19, says AARP. Linder says this may indicate low blood oxygen levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that anyone who has this symptom seek medical attention immediately.

Brittle nails. If your nails are thin and brittle, there may be a thyroid disorder. But there may be times when they just need a little more TLC. Wear gloves when washing dishes or clean with chemicals that may affect your nails. Another way to keep your nails healthy is through a well-balanced diet.

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