There are two types of people in life: those who constantly keep their nails in immaculate condition and those who relegate their nails to the bottom of their to-do list. However, no matter what you do, the surface of your nails can provide additional information about your health and well-being. When studying the color, texture and surface structure of nails, they are often associated with malnutrition and disease. Here are five signs that your nails are trying to tell you something.
Dry, cracked or brittle nails
Sometimes dry, brittle nails are a reflection of lifestyle changes and the products we use, such as water, nail polish remover and harsh cleansers. But if your nails are consistently brittle, thin and brittle, it’s time to see a doctor. “When people have dry skin, hair and nails, it may be a sign of an underactive thyroid,” says Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Toronto. A 2013 study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism found that gender and age were associated with the highest prevalence of the disease, a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones to keep your body functioning properly. Appears in women aged 46 to 54 years. Your doctor will do a blood test to check your thyroid hormone levels.
Ribs or bumps
It turns out that wrinkles don’t just appear on your skin; over time, you may notice that your nails become more textured. “Longitudinal grooves in the nail are normal as we age,” says Dr. Skotnitsky. However, a horizontal spine can mean something completely different. “Sometimes when you’re really sick, like if you have a very high fever or are sick, your nails stop growing. This causes horizontal lines on your nails called Beau’s lines,” says dermatologist and associate professor Dr. Peter. Vignevich. McMaster University School of Medicine. “It’s a sign of stress,” he added. What to do if your nails are uneven? “Pimples or blemishes may indicate psoriasis (a common chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes red, scaly patches) on other areas of the body,” says Dr. Skotnicki. A 2015 Canadian study found nail changes in more than 90 percent of patients with psoriatic arthritis.
If you’ve ever hit a nail with a hammer (oops!), you know that those nasty black bruises don’t heal right away. But sometimes brown spots or streaks appear under your nails for no apparent reason, so you should consult your doctor. “Most people don’t know that Bob Marley died from acral lentiginous melanoma, which is characterized by dark lines under the fingernails,” says Dr. Skotnitsky. “[This form of skin cancer] is more common in people of color and is more common as people age.”
If you regularly smoke or wear nail polish, yellow nails are often caused by nicotine. But “if the nail is yellow and the nail bed is raised, it may indicate a fungal infection,” says Dr. Skotnitsky. For patients with these symptoms, the doctor will write a prescription to kill the fungus and prevent its spread. In rare cases, yellow nails may be associated with more serious medical conditions such as lymphedema (a buildup of lymph fluid in tissue) or breathing problems. These health problems can cause the nail to thicken, causing the new nail to grow slowly and turn yellow.
If you work with your hands, you may break some nails or hit your nail bed, leaving a white mark. “The small white spots are called traumatic leukonychia and are harmless,” says Dr. Wiegevich. But if it’s just a small spot and half the nail is white, “it could be a condition called Terry’s nail, which is associated with severe liver or kidney disease.” In 1954, Dr. Richard Terry first described such nail abnormalities in patients with cirrhosis (a disease resulting from irreversible liver damage and scarring). In this case, the nail is characterized by a white crescent-shaped area at the base of the nail without a lunula.