Fingernails can be a good indicator of your health in many cases. They can provide hints of your overall health through their color, shape, and texture.
Healthy fingernails are generally even, without pits or grooves.
Other features of healthy fingernails include:
- Uniformly pink color
- Consistent shape
- Free of spots and discoloration
- Generally, pink with a moon-shaped lunula at the base
At times, fingernails may develop harmless vertical ridges that run from the top to the bottom of the nail, which becomes more prominent with age. White lines or spots caused by injury may develop on fingernails, which may eventually grow out with the nail.
However, not all nail symptoms are normal.
Contact a physician or dermatologist if you notice the following symptoms:
- Variations in nail color, such as discoloration of the entire nail or a dark streak under the nail
- Separation of the nail from the surrounding skin
- Bleeding around the nails
- Swelling or pain around the nails
- Stunted nail growth
- Irregularity in nail shape, such as curled nails
- Thickening or thinning of the nails
- Mole under the nail
- Brittle nails
These changes could indicate health problems that need to be addressed at the earliest.
What do changes in nail shape and texture indicate?
An irregularity in nail shape and texture could signal a health issue.
Some of the changes in nail structure and the health conditions they might indicate are presented in Table 1.
|Nail changes||Medical name||Diseases or health problems|
|Pitted nails||Pitting||Psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, alopecia areata, or thyroid disease|
|Spoon-shaped nails||Koilonychia||Iron-deficiency anemia, hemochromatosis, lack of proper nutrition, a health problem with the stomach or intestines, celiac disease, or high altitude|
It could indicate issues with the
|Lines on the nails or dark streaks||Acral lentiginous melanoma||Melanoma|
|Redness and swelling around the nail||Paronychia||Bacterial infection|
|Washboard nails||Onychotillomania||Grooves and ridges in the center of the nail due to constant picking at the cuticles on your thumbnails|
|Gnawed nails||Onychophagia||Constant biting of the nails linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder|
|Deep grooves or gaps||Beau lines||Fever, injury, chemotherapy, or major stress|
|Ram’s horn nails||Onychogryphosis||Thickening and overgrowth of nails caused by psoriasis, ichthyosis, or circulation problem|
What do changes in nail color indicate?
If the nail color changes suddenly, it could indicate a more serious illness.
Some of the nail color changes and the diseases or health problems it signals are presented in Table 2.
|Color of nail||Disease or other health problem|
|Blue||Not enough oxygen in your bloodstream, emphysema, or heart problems|
|White||Liver disease, diabetes, cirrhosis, chronic renal failure, or congestive heart failure|
|Pale||Anemia, congestive heart failure, liver disease, or malnutrition|
|Half pink, half white||Kidney disease|
|Yellow||Lung disease, nail infection, severe thyroid disease, diabetes or psoriasis|
|Dusky red half-moons||Could be lupus, heart disease, alopecia areata, arthritis, dermatomyositis|
|Blue half-moons||Could be a sign of poisoning|
|Greenish black color||Bacterial infection|
A change in the nails does not always indicate a disease; it may be due to a reaction to nail paints or medications you take. However, if you notice any of the above changes, it is better to consult a board-certified dermatologist to rule out any medical conditions.
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WebMD. Slideshow: What Your Nails Say About Your Health. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/ss/slideshow-nails-and-health
American Academy of Dermatology. 12 Nail Changes a Dermatologist Should Examine. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/nail-care-secrets/basics/nail-changes-dermatologist-should-examine
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