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8 Nail Symptoms and What They Mean for Your Health

Our eyes may be the windows to the soul, but your fingernails can be the window to your overall health. It turns out that having strong fingernails isn’t just beneficial for your manicure. Certain fingernail symptoms can be a larger indication of health issues.

According to John Anthony, MD, a dermatologist at the Clevland Clinic in Ohio and Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and author of Skin Rules, there are certain nail symptoms that you should not ignore.

Below you will find the most common health warning signs that your fingernails will show you.

Yellow Nails: According to WebMD, yellow nails are one of the most common warning signs your fingernails can give. They add that one of the most common causes of yellow nails is a fungal infection. But in rare cases, they also say that it can indicate a more serious condition such as diabetes, thyroid disease or lung disease. Dr. Anthony adds that yellow nails could also be a cause of smoking, which can stain the nails. So you might want to quit smoking if you notice your nails are constantly yellow, he adds.

your fingernails

Cracked or Brittle Nails: According to Dr. Jailman, cracked or brittle nails can be a sign that the nail plate is extremely dry. WebMD adds that cracked or brittle nails have been linked to thyroid disease. Dr. Jailman explains that hypothyroidism sometimes causes this side effect as well. Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid is not producing enough hormones.

Pitted Nails: According to MedicineNet, nail pitting is caused by the defective development of the layers of the nail plate, and it is common for those suffering from psoriasis. They add that nail pitting can affect up to 50% of people who are suffering from this condition. Dr. Jailman suggests that if you are experiencing any pitting or dents in your nails, you should speak with your doctor.

Ridged Nails: Dr. Anthony explains that the reason people will see horizontal ridges on their nails is that there could be direct trauma to the nail, or it could also be a cause of a more serious illness, in which case you’ll see it on more than one nail. He adds that the reason this occurs is that your body is working overtime to try and fight the illness, so it is saving its energy for the rest of the body that needs it more. In basic terms, your body is saying ‘the nails are not important enough for energy.’

Discolored or Dark Lines Beneath: WebMD mentions that discoloration or a dark line on the nail can sometimes be caused by melanoma; which is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Dr. Anthony elaborates on that by stating that melanoma that comes from the nail unit is extremely serious and it can also cause a black line or stripe on the nail. So if you notice this, you should contact your doctor immediately.

Bitten Nails: According to Medical Daily, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) classifies nail-biting as one of the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, this does not mean that everyone who bites their nails has this disorder, but Dr. Jailman does explain that when this habit becomes excessive, you should consult your doctor.

Bluish Nails: WebMD explains that when your nails become bluish, it is a sign that the body may not be getting enough oxygen. Possible causes could be lung problems and heart problems. If you notice that this is happening on a continuous basis, you should consult your doctor.

White Spots: There is a myth going around that white spots on nails means calcium deficiency. But Dr. Anthony explains that this is not typically the case. He adds that the white spots are not very significant as they are often a result of trauma such as hitting your finger against something.

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