Your nails can be a perfect indicator of your body’s health. Chipped, brittle, black or white nails can show the condition of your diet or a sign of illness. Having strong, healthy and normal-looking nails can be aesthetically pleasing. However, this is a sign you are healthy. There are certain nail conditions that you shouldn’t ignore.
1. Yellow nails
This is no cause for concern if you often cook with turmeric or food dyes. However, yellow nails can happen naturally as you grow older. They can also happen due to using nail polish, nail gel, or acrylics too frequently. If you wear these frequently, you should let give your manicures a break periodically.
Yellow nails can also happen because of smoking. The smoke can stain them and cause yellow nail syndrome. This is a rare disorder where you develop thick yellow nails, breathing issues, and swollen limbs. Jaundiced nails are a sign of liver problems. Seek medical attention when you see these signs.
Rough nails that are splitting in layers are a common problem. This condition is known as onychoschizia. It happens when your nails are exposed to too much water and drying. Using nail remover too frequently can also lead to brittleness. It can also be a sign of iron deficiency or hypothyroidism—when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones for your body.
Lotions with lanolin, glycerin, shea butter, or hyaluronic acid can help restore brittle nails. You can also wear gloves when doing chores requiring much water. Supplements like biotin or collagen can also help boost nail health. However, you should see a doctor if your nails aren’t changing after trying remedies.
3. Pale nails
White nails, or leukonychia, are fingernails or toenails that are partially or entirely white. This can result from trauma, anaemia, dietary deficiency, heart disease, kidney disease, or poisoning.
If the nails are mostly white with dark rims, this can be a sign of hepatitis.
Scattered white spots can be a sign of zinc deficiency. They can also be a sign of allergies or fungal infections. Adding zinc or collagen supplements to your diet, taking a break from manicures, and wearing gloves can help restore them. However, you should see a doctor if the white spots remain.
4. Blue nails
This could be a sign of emphysema, a lung condition that causes the body to have an oxygen deficiency. This can also be a sign of heart disease.
5. Lines and ridges
You may see black lines along your nails. This is called a splinter haemorrhage. They happen due to trauma, such as hitting your finger against a door. Rarely can they be a sign of melanoma, psoriasis, or endocarditis—the bacterial infection of the blood. The black lines clear as the nail grows. However, if they don’t, you should seek medical attention, especially when accompanied by inflamed skin, night sweats, and bleeding. If you feel any pain in the nail, it can also be a sign of skin cancer.
Horizontal ridges are also a sign of trauma. But if they occur in more than one nail, it can indicate illness. They are also known as Beau’s lines and can show that your body is fighting an illness. When your immunity works overtime, for example, during cancer treatment, your nails can stop growing, resulting in ridges. Chemotherapy drugs and surgery can also lead to horizontal ridges.
Vertical ridges are a sign of ageing just like wrinkles. Research shows that it is also associated with alopecia.
6. Clubbing and spooning
This is when your fingertips swell, and the nails become curved and rounded. It can be a sign of liver or kidney disease. In addition, research shows that it can occur in respiratory and gastrointestinal tract conditions. You should see a doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms.
Spooning is when nails are thin and form a concave shape. This can result from injury to the finger or iron deficiency anaemia.
Small depressions on the nail surface can eventually cause the nail to fall off. This can be a sign of psoriasis.
8. No half moons
Sometimes you get half-moons at the base of your nail. A lack of them isn’t always a problem. However, if you usually have them, they disappear, which can be a sign of malnutrition, depression, or anaemia. You should speak with your doctor if they turn red.
How do you know if you have an underlying condition?
Ordinarily, your nails will discolour or get different textures for natural reasons. But sometimes, it can be because of underlying illnesses. To be certain, look out for other potential symptoms, such as:
Ensure you consult your doctor when these symptoms appear.
How to keep nails healthy
Nails require vitamins, proteins, and minerals to be healthy. You can also use supplements like biotin or collagen if they need rejuvenation. However, biotin shouldn’t be used for at least two weeks before a medical lab test.
Gloria Mari is a culture writer based in Nairobi, Kenya. She writes on art, film, literature, health, and the environment. She has previously written for Kenya Buzz, People Daily, The Elephant, and Kalahari Review.