What Your Fingernails Can Tell You About Your Health

Fingernail Health CluesYour fingernails can provide many clues about the state of your overall health. For this reason, it’s important to pay attention to anything that seems out-of-the-ordinary, such color or texture changes, and discuss it with a physician. In many cases, nail changes are not a cause for alarm. However, a physician can evaluate the symptoms along with many other factors to determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment, if necessary.

Here are some common fingernail symptoms and the conditions that could potentially cause them:

  • Pitting – Ice-pick like depressions often appear in the nails of people who have psoriasis, an immune system condition that causes dry, scaly skin patches. Nail pitting may also be related to certain connective tissue disorders, including alopecia areata (which causes hair loss) and Reiter’s syndrome.
  • Clubbing – Nails that curve around enlarged fingertips can be a sign of low oxygen in the blood. This symptom is also sometimes associated with certain types of lung disease, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and liver disease.
  • Spooning – Spoon nails appear to be “scooped out,” with a depression in the center that is usually large enough to hold a drop of liquid. This can be a sign of iron deficiency anemia or hemochromatosis, a liver condition that occurs when the body absorbs too much iron from food.
  • Whiteness – A condition called Terry’s nails causes the majority of a nail to be white, with the exception of a narrow pink band near the tip. Sometimes attributed to the natural aging process, this condition can also be a sign of congestive heart failure, diabetes, or liver or kidney failure.
  • Horizontal indentations – Beau’s lines, which run across the nails, can develop when nail growth under the cuticle is disrupted by injury or illness. This symptom can be a sign of stress, zinc deficiency, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, and illnesses associated with high fever, such as measles, mumps, and pneumonia.
  • Looseness – A condition called onycholysis can cause fingernails to loosen and sometimes separate from the nail bed. Onycholysis may be related to an allergic reaction, thyroid disease, or psoriasis.
  • Yellowness – Yellow nail syndrome can cause nails to thicken and detach from the nail bed in places. This may be related to a respiratory condition, such as chronic bronchitis, or hand swelling (lymphedema).

It is not always possible to prevent underlying conditions that can impact your nails; however, by staying hydrated, eating a well-balanced diet, and reporting your concerns to a physician, you can help protect your nails as well as your overall health.

At South Tampa Immediate Care, our experienced medical staff is available to address any questions relating to health, wellness, and nutrition. Our walk-in clinic is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and weekends, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we do not require appointments.