The shape, texture, and color of your natural nails act as a window into your body, and while some nail symptoms are harmless, others can be indicative of chronic diseases, including cancer. As noted by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Nails often reflect our general state of health. Changes in the nail, such as discoloration or thickening, can signal health problems including liver and kidney diseases, heart and lung conditions, anemia, and diabetes.
Following are six things your nails may be telling you about your health:
1. Yellow Nails
Your nails may yellow with age or due to the use of acrylic nails or nail polish. Smoking can also stain them with a yellowish hue. If your nails are thick, crumbly, and yellow, a fungal infection could be to blame.
Less often, yellowing may be related to thyroid disease, diabetes, psoriasis, or respiratory disease (such as chronic bronchitis).
2. Dry, Cracked or Brittle Nails
Lifestyle factors may play a role here, such as if you have your hands in water a lot (washing dishes, swimming, etc.), use nail polish remover frequently, are exposed to chemicals (such as cleaning products) often, or live in a region with low humidity.
Cracking and splitting can also be caused by a fungal infection or thyroid disease, particularly hypothyroidism. Brittle nails may also be due to a deficiency in zinc or vitamins A and C or the B vitamin biotin.
Clubbing describes when your fingertips become enlarged and the nail becomes curved downward. It can be a sign of low oxygen in your blood and is associated with lung disease. Clubbing can also be related to liver or kidney disease, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and AIDS.
4. White Spots
Small white spots on your nails are usually the result of nail trauma. They’re not cause for concern and will fade or grow out on their own. Less commonly, white spots that do not go away could be due to a fungal infection.
5. Vertical Ridges
Vertical ridges are typically a normal sign of aging and are not a cause for concern. They may become more prominent as you get older. In some cases, nail ridges may be due to nutrient deficiencies, including vitamin B12 and magnesium.
6. Spoon Nails
Nails that curve upward at the edges, taking on a spoon-like appearance, may be a sign of iron-deficiency anemia, hemochromatosis (excess iron absorption), heart disease, or hypothyroidism.
Finally, if you notice any unusual or bothersome nail symptoms, resist the urge to simply cover them up with artificial nails or manicures and pedicures. Instead, see a holistic health care provider who can help you figure out if there’s an underlying issue.