There are two types of people in life: those who keep their nails immaculate at all times, and those who slide their nails to the bottom of their to-do list. Whichever way you pack it, the surface of your nails can be an open door to learning more about your health and well-being. Studies of surface color, texture, and structure indicate that nails are often associated with nutrient deficiencies and disease. Here are five signs your nails are trying to tell you something.
Dry, cracked or brittle nails
Sometimes dry and brittle nails are a reflection of lifestyle changes and the products we use, such as water, nail polish remover, and harsh detergents. But if your nails are chronically brittle, thin, and brittle, it’s time to see a doctor. “When people have dry skin, hair, and nails, it’s a sign of an underactive thyroid,” says Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Toronto. A 2013 study in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism on hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone to keep the body functioning properly, showed that gender and age were significantly associated with the condition. Women aged 46-54. Your doctor will order a blood test to check your thyroid hormone levels.
Back or hump
Wrinkles don’t just show up on your skin: you may notice your nails getting duller over time. “As we age, it’s normal for the nails to bend longitudinally,” says Dr. Skotnicki. However, a horizontal spine can mean something completely different. “Sometimes when you’re really sick, like if you’re really sick or have a really bad fever, your nails stop growing, which creates a horizontal line on the nail called Beau’s line,” says Dr. Peter Wigniewicz, MD, assistant professor of dermatology. MD from McMaster University. “It’s a sign of stress,” he added. What if your nails are bumpy? “Pimples or spots may indicate psoriasis (a common chronic inflammatory disease with red, scaly patches of skin) elsewhere on the body,” says Dr. Skotnicki. In a 2015 Canadian study, more than 90 percent of patients with psoriatic arthritis were associated with nail changes.
If you’ve ever hammered your nails (oops!) you’ll know that it can take a while for that nasty black bruise to heal. But sometimes dark spots or streaks appear under the nails for no apparent reason, so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. “Most people don’t know that Bob Marley died of acral lentiginous melanoma, which is characterized by dark lines under the nails,” said Dr. Skotnicki. “[This form of skin cancer] is more common in people of color, and it’s more common with age.”
If you smoke or regularly wear nail polish, the yellow glow on your nails is caused by nicotine. But “if the nail is yellow and the nail bed is raised, it could indicate a fungal infection,” says Dr. Skotnicki. For patients with these symptoms, the doctor will prescribe a prescription to kill the fungus and prevent it from spreading. In rare cases, yellow nails can be associated with more serious conditions, such as lymphedema (accumulation of lymph fluid in the tissues) and respiratory diseases. These health problems cause new nail growth to slow down and thicken, which can turn yellow.
If you work with your hands, chances are you’ve broken a few nails or knocked over the nail bed, leaving a white spot. “Small white spots are called traumatic leukonychia and are harmless,” says Dr. Vignijevic. But if it’s more than a small spot and the half of the nail is white, “it could be a condition called Terry’s nails, which is associated with liver disease or severe kidney disease.” In 1954, Dr. Richard Terry was the first to describe this nail condition in cirrhosis (resulting from permanent liver damage and scarring). In this case, the nail has the characteristic of “ground glass” and there is no lunula – there is a white crescent at the base of the nail.