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What Your Nails Say About Your Health

Nail color and texture can reflect a wide range of medical conditions.

WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

Take a good look at your fingernails and you may notice subtle variations in the texture or color - a touch of white here, a rosy tinge there, perhaps some rippling or bumps in the surface. These imperfections may not look like much to you, but to the trained eye they can provide valuable clues about your overall health.

"Just like the eyes are the window to the soul, so are the nails," says Tamara Lior, MD, a dermatologist with Cleveland Clinic Florida. Lior says she once convinced a patient to have his lungs checked after noticing a bluish tint to his nails, a sign that he wasn't getting enough oxygen. Sure enough, he had fluid in his lungs.

Warning signs for many other conditions, from hepatitis to heart disease, may also appear in the nails, according to Joshua Fox, MD, director of Advanced Dermatology and a spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatology. "Changes in the nails can be a sign of a local disease like a fungus infection or a sign of a systemic disease like lupus or anemia," Fox tells WebMD.

He says he sometimes tries to guess if a person has anemia by looking at his or her nails. He explains that pale, whitish nail beds may indicate a low red blood cell count consistent with anemia.

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