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What Your Nails Say About Your Health

When I look down at my fingernails, my first thought is, "I need a mani!" Turns out that unsightly nails could actually be a warning sign of more serious health problems inside the body.

Here's what to look out for:

Spooning (Koilonychia): Nails are actually shaped like spoons, resulting from a transverse and longitudinal concavity of the nail.

  • May affect all 10 fingernails
  • Spooning can be a sign of iron deficiency anemia. If your nails show signs of spooning, have your doctor check your blood count and iron level. Many patients with spooning do not realize they are anemic.

Pitting: Punctuated depressions and holes develop in the nail plate.

  • Pitting can be a sign of psoriasis and/or alopecia areata (a form of hair loss that occurs in round patches).
  • The pitting may precede the onset of either condition.

What if you have yellow nails or thick cuticles? Then

Yellow nails: Nail color will appear in shades ranging from pale yellow to orange. It can involve all 20 nails.

  • Sufferers may also notice a reduction in nail growth (less than .2mm per week).
  • Yellow nails can be a sign of respiratory/lung disorders, including sinus infections, an enlarged upper lung tube or fluid surrounding the lungs.

Clubbing: A thickening of the soft tissue beneath the cuticle area.

  • Nail plate will enlarge and curve excessively, appearing like a knot has developed beneath the nail.
  • Clubbing can be a sign of many lung/cardiac problems inside the body, including (but not limited to) congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis and tuberculosis.
  • If your nails develop clubbing, you should contact your doctor to schedule a checkup.

Terry’s nails: Entire nail will appear white with the exception of a 1-2mm band at the top of the nail.

  • All nails are uniformly involved. Terry’s nails are a common sign of liver cirrhosis, occurring in up to 82 percent of patients. Condition is frequently seen in chronic congestive heart failure and adult-onset diabetes mellitus.


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justlookaround justlookaround 8 years
nails are very important
justlookaround justlookaround 8 years
nails are very important
buffyanne buffyanne 8 years
What about ridges along the length of the nail? Anyone?
rubialala rubialala 8 years
leigha I never heard that before. I'm anemic and I tend to have ridges, too. Another good reason to keep up on my iron supplement!
nikkih nikkih 8 years
Thanks leigha...I guess I need to start taking my vitamins!!!!
Twyla Twyla 8 years
Microwave popcorn(Especially the kind with extra butter) has tons of yellow die in it and it caused the sides of my nails to turn yellow. At first I was concerned that it was some type of medical condition but a friend enlightened me and I was more than relieved when my nails went back to their natural color.
beingtazim beingtazim 8 years
i can't picture what a "spooning" fingernail looks like. i don't think i have that - just wondering.
leigha926 leigha926 8 years
i have horrible ridges in my nails and i was told it was because of my anemia and some other nutritional deficiencies...they got a little better when i started eating more and taking care of myself.
nikkih nikkih 8 years
I've noticed some of my nails have ridges in them...what does that mean??
ThePerfectScore ThePerfectScore 8 years
thats good to know... does anyone know why old ppl's nails get thick and gross?
jhuck jhuck 8 years
The coloured nails can also either be a fungal infection or sometimes certain nail polishes cause it.
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