What Your Nails Can Say About Your Health

What Your Nails Can Say About Your Health

When we think of bodily changes that may have a huge impact on our health, our first thought doesn’t normally go to our nails. However, these small surfaces on our body can actually help us diagnose if something is off with our body. As one dermatologist, Dr. Poblete-Lopez 1 cautions, pay close attention to your fingernails and toenails for any sudden signs of change -- it could be a warning.

Below are seven conditions that can cause symptomatic changes to your nails:

1. Stress

Both fingernails and toenails are closely related to our hair – so just like our hair may begin to shed due to illness or prolonged stress, our nails may also show signs something is wrong. But the most frequent to show up in our nails is stress, which presents itself in the form of side-to-side lines appearing on our nails2.

2. Moles or Melanoma

Change in nail color is a very common complaint. Benign moles or cancerous melanomas may present themselves as discolorations – usually appearing in lines, which run from the cuticle of the nail to the tip. However, African Americans and Asians are more likely to experience pigmentation changes in the nails that are ethnicity-related. Regardless, you should away consult a dermatologist if you notice prominent changes – especially if you notice that the skin beneath the nail plate begins to turn brown. This is particularly a cause for concern if it’s affecting only a single finger rather than all, as brown lines running into the cuticle could be a sign on melanoma 3.

3. Arthritis

Arthritis can present itself in the nails through small cysts that appear near or on the cuticles. Normally they’re benign, but it’s still best to get them checked out by a doctor 4.

4. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a very common skin condition characterized by scaly red patched. However, it can also impact the nails of your fingers and toes. If your nail is discolored a yellow-red color, also referred to as either an “oil drop” or “salmon patch,” it could indicate psoriasis – but it’s always best to consult a doctor 5.

Here are other symptoms of the nails that could indicate psoriasis:

  • Indentations: Nicks or pits on the nail plate.
  • Beau’s lines: Lines running side-to-side across the nail.
  • Skin thickening/nail loosening: Thickening of the skin beneath the nail can cause the nail to dislodge from the nail bed.
  • White areas: Distinct white spots on the nails which are known as leukonychia.
  • Black lines: Black lines that span the nail from cuticle to tip could be small clots known as splinter hemorrhages, or dilated and burst capillaries.
  • Redness: When the normally pale areas on the cuticle become red, this could be cause by congested capillaries.

5. Kidney Disease

There are several nail changes that could indicate something serious such as chronic kidney disease 6.

  • Beau’s lines: Side-to-side lines.
  • Ridged nails: Also known as koilonychia, it’s when nails become concaved or spoon-shaped. This can also signify iron-deficiency anemia.
  • White streaks/spots: very similar to psoriasis symptoms, these white areas can also indicate chronic kidney disease.

6. Darier Disease: Darier disease is a rare genetic disorder which causes a skin rash. It mostly appears in adolescents. But it also presents symptoms in nails in the form of broad white or reddish lines running from cuticle to tip. A V-shaped nick close to the fingertip can also be another symptom7.

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