We are so used to taking our health for granted that we don’t notice signs of illness unless they are ‘in your face’. Yes, dry peeling skin on your face or clumps of hair falling off your scalp will set off the alarm bells, but your body has a much better early warning system that can help you avoid the onset of such unpleasant symptoms. All jokes aside, nail symptoms are a lot more accurate than most people realize and they can often hint at bigger health problems that tend to go undiagnosed until they cause severe symptoms. Here’s a guide that will help you read between the lines on nail health and symptoms.
The Nails Health Connection
Yellowing of the nails may be natural with age, but it can also occur due to nail lacquers or acrylic nails. If you frequently use nail paints and acrylic nails, it may be a good idea to take a break from your nail cosmetic routine. If the nails still appear yellow, it could also be a result of smoking, which stains the nails.
Cracked & Brittle Nails
This is one of the most widespread problems, which is not surprising considering the number of possible causes. This symptom can develop because of drying of the nail plate that may result from swimming, excessive use of nail polish remover, handling detergents without gloves, or simply living in an dry environment. While this can also happen as a result of aging, brittle nails are sometimes indicative of hypothyroidism, a very common thyroid disorder. If it’s just dryness of nails without an underlying cause, you can use biotin supplements and moisturizers for healthy nail growth.
Clubbing Or Downward Curving Of Nails
This is a condition in which the ends of the fingers appear to swell slightly and the nail becomes noticeably curved or rounded. If you notice this nail symptom it could be an early warning for liver or kidney disease.
Contrary to popular belief, white spots are actually not indicative of calcium or iron deficiency. This is actually the only symptom that people read too much into, but it actually is only indicative of mild trauma that your finger may have been subjected to.
If you notice horizontal ridges on just one nail, it’s nothing serious, but ridges on multiple nails simultaneously could be indicative of a nutritional deficiency or could be a sign that your body is battling an infection and is therefore conserving energy and nutrients, redirecting them away from nail growth. At times horizontal ridges can also be caused by drug reactions, such as after chemotherapy. Vertical ridges on the other hand are just a sign of aging, something that you probably hate more than illness!
Although similar to clubbing because of the curve of the nail, this actually involves thinning of the nail that results in a more concave shape. Instead of white nail spots, this symptom is actually indicative of iron deficiency or anemia. It is very likely that your nails will also be visibly pale in comparison to a healthy individual’s nails.
Discoloration & Growths
The appearance of black streaks and growths that may be painful is worrying, as this symptoms is often associated with melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Subungual melanoma often surfaces as a dark line running beneath or in the nail and typically appears on the thumb, index finger, or big toe. If you notice this symptom, visit your doctor immediately.
While these common signs that will alert you to any undiagnosed condition, nail symptoms can often just be indicative of poor nail health, nothing more serious. At times nails may also get discolored and brittle because of fungal nail infections. If you eat healthy and take good care of your nails however, you now know which warning signs should send you running to the doctor and which ones simply require a lifestyle overhaul.
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