Even though we are more used to seeing nails as an aesthetic feature, we need to know that they are much more than just something to be decorated with pretty colors.
The color, shape and texture of your nails actually show what is happening in your body. If you have some nail abnormalities, they can say tons about your overall health. They can actually show if you have some infections or injuries. Additionally, they might also indicate that you have a more serious condition, like cancer. Also, if your nails change, like maybe they get thick, or discolored, it might mean that you are suffering from anemia, diabetes, lung and heart conditions, and kidney and liver diseases.
What is more, the rate of their growth can also reveal a lot about your health. If they are healthy they will grow 3.5 millimeters a month. What influences growth is your nutritional status, chronic disease, trauma, medications and even the aging process.
Therefore, if you happen to notice some changes in your nails, like discolorations, swelling, thickness or shape changes, consult a dermatologist.
Now we will present you with all the changes in your body that might be indicated by your nails.
What Nails Reveal About Your Overall Health
If you have enlarged and downward-curved nails it might mean that you are suffering from lung disease and low level of oxygen in your blood. Also, it might indicate AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease and liver disease.
2. White Spots
White spots are not actually a very serious problem, therefore, they will either grow or fade. Nail trauma contributes to this. However, sometimes, if they do not disappear it might mean that you have a fungal infection.
3. Horizontal Ridges
These ridges can be caused by nail trauma or a serious health problem with a high fever, like scarlet fever and pneumonia. Actually, these ridges are directly caused by trauma to the nail. They can be also caused by a serious health issue. In this case, they are noticed on more than one nail at a time. Moreover, they can also be caused by severe zinc deficiency, circulatory disease, uncontrolled diabetes or psoriasis. Some discolorations can be associated with carbon monoxide poisoning, arsenic poisoning, leprosy, malaria, or Hodgkin’s disease.
4. Vertical Ridges
What might lead to vertical ridges is aging. These can become more prominent as you get older. They could be caused by magnesium or B12 deficiency. This means that they are not that dangerous.
5. Spoon Nails
You may suffer from hypothyroidism, heart disease, excess iron absorption or iron-deficiency anemia if your nails curve upward at the edges.
You might suffer from psoriasis if your nails have multiple dents or pits. This can be also triggered by alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disorder which contributes to hair loss, or connective tissue disorders like Reiter’s syndrome.
7. Dark Discolorations
If you have painful growths or black streaks on your nails it may mean that you suffer from melanoma. This is the deadliest type of skin cancer. Thus, if you experience this, please visit a dermatologist.
8. White Nails with a Strip of Pink
If your nails are white with a pink strip at the top it might mean that you suffer from congestive heart failure, diabetes, kidney failure, or liver disease. Even though these nails can happen due to aging, you should consult a dermatologist to be safe.
9. Yellow Nails
A lot of things can influence your nails to become yellow, like usage of nail polish. It can happen with age or perhaps if you are a smoker. However, if they are yellow, thick and crumbly, it might mean that you have a fungal infection. Sometimes they can be associated also with a respiratory condition- bronchitis, psoriasis, diabetes or a thyroid disorder.
10. Brittle, Dry or Cracked Nails
It is normal to have these types of nails if you wash dishes, swim, or use nail polish remover often. However, if you live somewhere with low humidity and your nails are exposed to toxic chemicals a lot, you might have some of these nail abnormalities. What leads to these may be a fungal infection or a thyroid disorder, especially hypothyroidism. You can also have them due to vitamin A, B and C deficiency.
Nail Biting May Result in Infections
If you are one of those nail biters, be careful. You are more likely to end up with an infection commonly known as paronychia. This occurs around the nails. When you bite them, yeast, bacteria and other microorganisms can enter through the abrasions or the tears. This may result in redness, swelling and pus around the nail.
Sometimes, this condition has to be treated surgically. These bacterial infections which are triggered by nail biting are the most common ones.
If you are one of those people who have this nasty habit, you have to do the following things to get rid of it:
- Start keeping a journal in order to detect your nail-biting triggers, like watching TV, anxiety, or boredom. When you find them out, try to avoid them.
- Keep your hands busy with other activities, perhaps knitting.
- Apply an unpleasant substance to your fingertips, something like hot sauce, vinegar, or store-bought, bitter-tasting nil products.
- Keep your nails short or manicured.
- Use electrical tape or Band-Aids to wrap your fingertips.
- Use behavioral therapy, like the Emotional Freedom Techniques or habit reversal training.
Keep Your Nails Healthy by Following a Healthy Diet
If you follow a balanced diet in whole foods your body will be provided with enough minerals and vitamins it craves to function properly. What can contribute more to nutritional deficiencies and chronic conditions is poor nutrition. Additionally, your hair, skin and hails will suffer.
What you should do is consume more proteins, like grass-fed meat, whey protein, and free range eggs to keep the nails healthy. Moreover, add some minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins like vitamin B7 or biotin which are present in berries, leafy green vegetables and other whole foods. These will have a positive effect on your nail health.
The biotin can metabolize the amino acids, fats and carbohydrates. Also, it can strengthen your nails and hair. You can also find it in egg yolks from organic, free-range eggs. You might want to consume more animal-based omega-3 fatty acids due to the fact that they aid in fighting inflammation and keep your nails healthy. Note that the perfect ratio of omega-3: omega-6 fats is 1:1, therefore, reduce the intake of vegetable oils and turn to more animal-based omega-3 fatty acids instead. You can find these in sardines, anchovies, and krill oil.
Hopefully, everything we told you was useful. Now that you know what your nails are telling you might start taking care of yourself a bit more. Also, take our advice and follow the healthy diet. Your health will thank you.