When you’re feeling unwell, you might check your health by using a thermometer or a blood pressure machine. Perhaps you can tell by the color of your skin if you’re feverish. But have you ever tried looking at your fingernails to figure out what’s going on inside? The color, shape and texture of your fingernails can sometimes be a very good indicator of your health.
What do Healthy and Unhealthy fingernails Look Like?
Your fingernails can be tools for health assessment, but you must first know what healthy and unhealthy nails look like.
Healthy fingernails are smooth. They are free from ridges, valleys, pits, or discoloration. Cuticles should be free of cracks and tears, well moisturized and smooth.
Unhealthy nails will have an unnatural color or tint. They may be cracked and brittle or even split.
A Change in Fingernail Color or Texture
A change in the color of your nails may suggest health issues. Blue nails may mean that your body is not receiving enough oxygen, while very red nails can indicate heart disease. Unnaturally white nails have been associated with liver disease or anemia, and yellow nails with diabetes. Half white and half pink nails might mean kidney disease.
Fingernails and Mental Health
Ragged nails and cuticles may indicate emotional distress, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder. Someone that picks at their fingers, bites their nails or digs at their cuticles is often nervous, anxious or trapped by habit. In a study entitled “Clinical Pediatrics,” published in 1990, Doctors Lane Robson and Alexander K.C. Leung suggest that young children who bite their nails may begin the destructive habit by imitating adults or older children.
Fingernails and Nutrition
Your fingernails benefit as much from good nutrition as the rest of your body. Weak and brittle nails may indicate that you need calcium. Vitamin B deficiency is a likely cause of ridges and grooves. Hangnails may suggest you are deficient in vitamin C or folic acid. The rule of thumb of good nutrition is five to survive. By eating at least five fruits and vegetables a day, you can keep your nails and your body strong and healthy.
Not every nail abnormality or discoloration indicates ill health. A doctor will consider nail problems as a symptom of sickness, but usually a difference in nail appearance will also have at least one other accompanying medical symptom. If you have difficulty breathing–and your nails have a blue tint–then you may not be receiving adequate oxygen. However, a blue tint alone may not be enough to cause concern.
One of the prevailing myths about fingernail white spots is that they are caused by calcium or vitamin deficiencies. White spots, also called leukonychia, may be caused by too little zinc, but the likelihood is that you have bruised your nail in some way. Sometimes the bruising occurs weeks before the white spots appear.
The condition of your nails can be an indicator of health conditions or vitamin deficiencies, but don’t panic if you notice that your nails have become discolored or have changed texture. Check with your doctor before jumping to conclusions. He will use the clues in your nails as just one of several factors in determining your health.