Can Nails Be Indicators of Disorders and Diseases?

You may be shocked to know that your nails also act as an indicator of your health by pointing towards various diseases and disorders. The concept may not be so well known but it certainly is not new. The idea that nails also indicate disorders of the body health problems was first introduced by Hippocrates in 5th century B.C. when he described clubbing of nails as an indicator of a disease. So next time when you are giving your nails a manicure, make sure to look closely as some of the things may not be as normal as they seem and may be indicators of some disorders and health related issues that you might possess.

Can Nails Be Indicators of Disorders and Diseases?

Can Nails Be Indicators of Disorders and Diseases?

Nails can indicate some problems which could range from some fairly common ones to some really dangerous diseases such as melanomas. On the other hand, if your nails are pink and healthy then that is probably an indicator of the fact that you are also in the very pink of your health. So, here are some of the nail issues described below and also the disease indications that they provide:

Nail Clubbing Could be an Indicator of Lung Diseases

Nail clubbing is a condition in which the nails curve around the tip of the fingers which are usually enlarged. This usually happens over a fairly long period of time. Nail clubbing can be an indicator of various lung disorders as well as low oxygen content in blood.

These nails could also be an indicator of a disease as dangerous as AIDS. Apart from these, it can also indicate cardiovascular diseases, liver diseases and inflammatory bowel disease.

Nail Pitting May Indicate Autoimmune Diseases

When nails develop some depressions in them which kind of look as if they have been made by an ice pick, then this condition is known as nail pitting. Such nails could be an indicator of Psoriasis which is an autoimmune disease in which the skin becomes abnormal and develops patches which are red, scaly and itchy. It can also indicate another autoimmune disorder called alopecia areata in which the person who has the disorder suffers from hair loss.

Apart from these disorders, nail pitting can also be an indicator of Reiter’s syndrome and some other connective tissue disorders. Reiter’s syndrome is a kind of inflammatory polyarthritis that happens due to a bacterial infection.

Spoon Nails Could Indicate Iron Deficiency Disorders

Spoon nails is a condition which is also known as Koilonychia in which nails get a hollowed out or scooped look same as spoons. That is why they are called spoon nails. In this problem, nails also become soft and dirty yellow in color. These nails can be an indicator of anemia due to a deficiency of iron.

These types of nails can also be an indicator of a disorder called hemochromatosis which is also known as Iron Overload. Iron overload is a problem of the liver in which iron accumulates in the body due to increased absorption of iron from food. It can also be related to hypothyroidism and some heart diseases.

Terry’s Nails Maybe a Sign of Diabetes

Terry’s nails are nails which become white and opaque with a narrow band of pink at the very tip of them. Terry’s nails can be an indicator of various diseases such as Diabetes. They can also indicate the presence of some other problems such as kidney failure, congestive heart failure and some diseases of the liver.

But Terry’s nails are not always an indicator of diseases. Sometimes, they can just happen due to increasing age.

Beau’s Nails: Indicator of Malnutrition Disorders

Beau’s nails are horizontal indentations on the nails that run across them. They can occur due to an injury that interrupts proper growth of the nails. However, they can also be an indicator of disorders related with malnutrition.

This symptom is also related with diseases in which the body runs a high fever such as measles, mumps, pneumonia and scarlet fever. These kinds of nails can also be an indicator of zinc deficiency in our bodies. They can also occur due to diabetes especially if it is not properly controlled as well as some peripheral vascular diseases.

White Spots on Nails: Indicator of Nutrition Deficiency disorders

White spots on nails are localized discoloration of nails which manifests as white spots on them. These spots are fairly common and almost everyone has experienced them at one time or another. Nails with white spots are usually an indicator of nutrient deficiency disorders or diseases in your body. Especially if the body is suffering from the deficiency of calcium, zinc or protein, white spots develop on nails.

Nail Separation From Nail Bed Can be an Indicator of Thyroid Disorders or Infection

This condition of the nails is known as Onycholysis. In this condition, nails get separated from the nail beds and they also become dirty yellow in color or opaque with a greenish tint to them.

Such separated nails can be an indicator of thyroid related disorders and can also happen due to fungal infections or injury. They can also be an indicator of allergic reactions to various nail products such as nail hardeners or acrylic nails etc.

Yellow Nail Syndrome: Indicator of Respiratory Disorders

This is a syndrome in which the new nail growth slows and as such nails become thick and yellow. Sometimes, nails also get detached from the bed and cuticle is also lacking in them.

These types of nails are usually an indicator of various respiratory disorders such as chronic bronchitis. It can also be an indicator of a disease called lymphedema in which the limbs swell due to fluid retention in them which happens when the lymphatic system of the body does not work properly.

Nail Ridges: Indicators of No Serious Disorders or Diseases

Vertical nail ridges occurrence in nails is actually quite common and do not necessarily indicate any disorders or diseases. They may occur in nails due to increasing age. But there is no cause for serious concern if you have ridges on your nails.

Colored Streak on Nails: Indicator of Melanomas

Brown or black colored streak on the nails can be an indicator of a sinister disease such as melanoma under the nails. They can also happen due to injuries to the nails but if such is the case then it will gradually disappear. If the streaks are not disappearing, then you should immediately consult your doctor.

Crumbly Nails: Indicators of Infection

Sometimes, nails get crumbly and turn white in color. This is usually an indicator of various infections and disorders of the body especially fungal infection.

So these are some of the problems associated with nails that can also serve as an indicator of various disorders or diseases. If you suffer from any of these, you can consult a physician and adjust your diet accordingly if it is a nutrition related problem. If it is a serious disease or disorder then you will need to follow the proper treatment method. In any case, you should have a general idea about your health if you pay attention to what your nails are trying to say.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 19, 2017

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