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Fingernails are a body part many people believe have little use. Nails look beautiful painted and manicured. About 30% of Americans cope with nerves though nail-biting. And nails help scratch that pesky itch. But what else are fingernails good for? Subtle changes can provide insight into someone’s current health. By looking at color, strength, or shape, doctors can predict and even diagnose health issues.
Nails are made of keratin, a protein also responsible for creating hair and skin. Because of keratin’s strong nature, the protein protects the sensitive nerve endings on the fingers. In fact, keratin is present in and around all cells and are building block for many internal functions. So when the body lacks vitamins, minerals, or has a disease, expect a fingernail reaction.
Healthy nails should look pink on the nail bed and white when grown off the nail bed. Any other color could be a sign of a deficiency or disease. For instance, clear, pale nails can be a sign of anemia or poor nutrition. White nails, also known as Terry’s nails, are a sign of kidney disease, liver disease, or diabetes. Yellow nails can be a fungal infection, a thyroid issue, or a rare condition called Yellow Nail Syndrome. Persons with Brown, grey, and even green colored nails should check with a medical professional.
While some nail colors would indicate a simple deficiency, other colors can be more serious. Noticed some red nails recently? Red nails could mean possible heart disease or kidney issues. Red nails are also connected to conditions like psoriasis and lupus. Blue looking nails are signs of poor oxygen circulation, heart or lung issues. A vertical black stripe from the cuticle to the tip can be the most serious of all. Persons with subungal melanoma, a dangerous skin cancer, have noticed this color change. In cases of a mysterious color, check a dermatologist or doctor for an assessment.
Healthy nails should be smooth, clear, and strong. If fingernails become brittle, chipping and breaking easily, the damage could be a sign of hypothyroidism. Recognized some little holes in the nail bed? The pitting could be a sign of psoriasis. Up to 35% of people with the condition will experience nail pitting. Changes in texture are also linked to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Vitamin B12, iron, zinc, or magnesium deficiencies can cause vertical ridges on the nail beds. While vitamins A and C deficiencies can cause nails to crumble or break easily.
While the color and texture can be fine, the shape of fingernails can indicate health issues. If nails grow detached from the nail bed, this could be connected to hyperthyroidism or fungal infection. Fingernails can also start growing upwards, taking the shape of a spoon. Also known as koilonychia, irregular growth can be a sign of anemia or cardiovascular disease. More serious shapes include nail clubbing, which could indicate a range of diseases including heart, liver, or AIDS.
Nails can provide valuable life-saving data. If the shape, strength or color change suddenly, see a doctor as soon as possible. The issue could be a treatable infection or a disease in the early stages. Whatever the health issue, thank the fingernails for the helpful health check.