What do your nails have to say?

By G.N
Tue, 12, 18

Certain medical conditions can change the appearance of your fingernails, which might be difficult to interpret. You! takes a look...


Certain medical conditions can change the appearance of your fingernails, which might be difficult to interpret. You! takes a look...

Eyes may be the windows to the soul, but nails can offer an important glimpse into your overall health. It turns out having strong, healthy nails isn’t just good news for your manicure but also your wellbeing. Unpleasant nail symptoms can also indicate bigger health problems.

“When I was a child, I used to suffer from fungal infection in my nails,” tells Husna Ali, an event organiser and someone suffering from Lupus. “The doctors used to give antibiotics as a remedy, but the problem became more serious as I grew up. Now, I am at a stage where I have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called ‘Lupus’. According to my doctor, the fungal infection in my nails during childhood was indicative of the disease in my body,” she narrates.

Similarly in children, nails can also be an indicator of conditions such as serious anaemia or malnutrition, which parents should be mindful about. Furthermore, a touch of white here, a rosy tinge there, or some rippling or bumps may be a sign of disease in the body like problems in the liver, lungs, and heart that can show up in your nails.

This week You! takes a look at the details of various nail conditions and what do they mean. Read on...

Pale or white nails

Very pale nails can sometimes be a sign of serious illness, such as anaemia, congestive heart failure, liver disease and malnutrition. If the nails are mostly white with darker rims, this can indicate liver problems, such as hepatitis. Though nail changes accompany many conditions, these changes are rarely the first sign. And many nail abnormalities are harmless - not everyone with white nails has hepatitis. If you’re concerned about the appearance of your nails, see your doctor or a dermatologist.

Yellow nails

One of the most common causes of yellow nails is a fungal infection. As the infection worsens, the nail bed may retract, and nails may thicken and crumble. In rare cases, yellow nails can indicate a more serious condition such as severe thyroid disease, lung disease, diabetes or psoriasis.

Bluish nails

Blue fingernails, also known as azure lunula (medical term - cyanosis), are characterised by a blue discoloration of the lunula. To put it simply, nails with a bluish tint can mean the body isn’t getting enough oxygen. This could indicate a lung problem, such as emphysema. Some heart problems can also be associated with bluish nails.

White spots

White spots or dots on your nails are common. Several issues can cause them. Possible causes include an allergy to a nail polish, gloss, hardener, or nail polish remover may cause white spots on your nails. The use of acrylic or gel nails can also badly damage your nails and may cause these white spots. In other cases, they can also indicate of mineral deficiency such as calcium and zinc. You may notice white spots or dots along your nails if you are deficient in certain minerals or vitamins.

Nail clubbing

Nail clubbing occurs when the tips of the fingers enlarge and the nails curve around the fingertips, usually over the course of years. Nail clubbing is sometimes the result of low oxygen in the blood and could be a sign of various types of lung disease. Nail clubbing is also associated with inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and AIDS.

Nail separation

With a condition known as onycholysis, the fingernails become loose and can separate from the nail bed. The separated part of the nail becomes opaque with a white, yellow or green tinge. Sometimes detached nails are associated with injury or infection. In other cases, nail separation can also be caused by a particular drug or consumer product such as nail hardeners or adhesives. Thyroid disease and psoriasis - a condition characterised by scaly patches on the skin - also can cause nail separation.

Spoon nails

Spoon nails (koilonychia) are soft nails that look scooped out. The depression usually is large enough to hold a drop of liquid. Often, spoon nails are a sign of iron deficiency anaemia or a liver condition known as hemochromatosis, in which your body absorbs too much iron from the food you eat. Spoon nails can also be associated with heart disease and hypothyroidism.

Cracked or split nails

Dry, brittle nails that frequently crack or split have been linked to thyroid disease. Cracking or splitting combined with a yellowish hue is more likely due to a fungal infection.

Puffy Nail Fold

If the skin around the nail appears red and puffy, this is known as inflammation of the nail fold. It may be a result of Lupus or another connective tissue disorder. Infection can also cause redness and inflammation of the nail fold.

Dark lines on the nail

Black lines on the nails is a splinter haemorrhage, which occurs when blood vessels under the fingernail are damaged, often due to injuries, such as hitting. More seriously, a black line or lines on the nails can indicate the presence of melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer. These should be investigated as soon as possible.

Gnawed nails

Biting your nails may be nothing more than an old habit, but in some cases it’s a sign of persistent anxiety that could benefit from treatment. Nail biting or picking has also been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you can’t stop, it’s worth discussing with your doctor.