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11 health problems you can detect by looking at your nails

POSTED: April 20, 2017 10:31 a.m.
Amberlee Lovell/

Are those white spots normal?

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We don’t think too much about our nails unless we’re coating them with a fresh layer of paint, but this small part of our body is actually pretty fascinating. Paying attention to changes or abnormalities in your nails can warn you of a number of health problems. Here are 11 messages your nails are trying to tell you about your health:

1. White nails

Fingernails naturally have white on the tips, but if the whole nail except a narrow band at the top is white, this could be a sign of liver disease, kidney failure, diabetes or congestive heart failure, according to Mayo Clinic.

2. Yellow nails

Yellow nail syndrome happens when nails thicken and become discolored. It can be a sign of chronic bronchitis, but is also related to hand swelling, according to Mayo Clinic.

3. Peeling nails

There’s not much to worry about with this one. If your nails are peeling, it’s likely they’ve either had too much exposure to moisture or have been covered in nail polish too long, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

4. Red streaks in the nail

Infections in your heart valve may cause red streaks to appear in your nail bed, according to University of Maryland Medical Center.

5. Split or cracked

If your nails are extra brittle or keep splitting, this could be a sign of thyroid disease or psoriasis, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

6. Clubbed nails

Lung problems, cancer, infection, or diseases that affect how much oxygen you are getting to your heart can create nail clubbing. This is when your fingertips enlarge and your nails curve around the tips.

7. Blue nails

If the nail itself is blue (not your whole hand altogether), your body could be trying to tell you you’re not getting enough oxygen. It also could be a sign of certain poisons in your body.

8. Ridges on your nails

It all depends on the direction of the ridge. Many people have vertical ridges that become more pronounced as they age. Dr. Phoebe Rich, M.D., FAAD, clinical adjunct professor of dermatology at Oregon Health Science University said to consider these like wrinkles in your nails.

Occasionally vertical ridges do indicate lack of vitamins or nutrition, but more often than not, they are not worth worrying about.

Horizontal ridges can be more of a cause for concern, which is described below.

9. Indentations across the nail (horizontal ridges)

Indentations are caused by disrupted growth which can happen for several reasons. Diseases such as diabetes or high fever diseases can create these indentations as well as severe injury or zinc deficiency, according to Mayo Clinic.

10. Dark lines beneath the nail

Dark lines that appear underneath the nail are not a good sign. If you regularly have these, visit a doctor as it could be a sign of aggressive melanoma, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

11. White spots on your nails

Don’t worry about these, dermatologist Jessica Krant told Huffington Post. “Most likely they are signs of previous trauma to the nail plate (the hard part of the nail) or the matrix (the source of the nail plate, which is located underneath the cuticle under the skin),” Krant said. “Just like folding or denting a piece of clear plastic leaves a white spot, so does pressure or trauma to the nail.”

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