Next time you visit your doctor, ask them to take a look at your nails. Tamara Lior, MD, a dermatologist with Cleveland Clinic Florida says she once convinced a patient to have his lungs checked after noticing a blue tint to his nails. She was sure he had fluid in his lungs and sure enough, the tests proved positive.
Fingernail appearance can reflect our overall health AND a wide range of medical conditions. Below are some visual clues to possible problems. Of course, it’s not a certainty, but it’s a good idea to get it checked if you find your nails look exactly like one of these photos. Keep an eye out for elderly parents and loved ones too. Brace yourself. Some of the pics aren’t pretty.
YOUR FINGERNAILS: NOT HOT
1. Nail Separation – infection, injury, thyroid disease, psoriasis
2. Clubbing – lung disease, low oxygen in blood, AIDS, liver disease
3. Beau’s Lines – diabetes, congestive heart failure
4. Pitting – psoriasis, connective tissue disorders
5. Yellow Nail Syndrome – chronic bronchitis, lymphedema, respiratory disease
6. Spoon Nails – anemia, iron deficiency, hypothyroidism, heart disease
7. Terry’s Nails – liver disease, diabetes, malnutrition
7 Other Color Change Warning Signs:
- White nails – Liver diseases such as hepatitis
- Half-white, half-pink nails – Kidney disease
- Red nail beds – Heart disease
- Pale or white nail beds – Anemia
- Dark lines beneath the nail – Melanoma
- Abuse your fingernails. To prevent nail damage, don’t use your fingernails as tools to pick, poke or pry things.
- Bite your fingernails or pick at your cuticles. These habits can damage the nail bed. Even a minor cut alongside your fingernail can allow bacteria or fungi to enter and cause an infection.
- Pull off hangnails. You might rip live tissue along with the hangnail. Instead, carefully clip off hangnails.
- Ignore problems. If you have a nail problem that doesn’t seem to go away on its own or is associated with other signs and symptoms, consult your doctor or dermatologist for an evaluation.
YOUR FINGERNAILS: HOT & HEALTHY
Healthy fingernails are smooth, without pits or grooves. They’re uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration. Sometimes fingernails develop harmless vertical ridges that run from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. Vertical ridges tend to become more prominent with age. Fingernails can also develop white lines or spots due to injury, but these eventually grow out.
14 Tips for Strong and Healthy Nails from Reader’s Digest
2. Wear rubber gloves whenever you do housework or wash dishes. Most household chores, from gardening to scrubbing the bathroom to washing dishes, are murderous on your nails. To protect your digits from dirt and harsh cleaners, cover them with vinyl gloves whenever it’s chore time. And for extra hand softness, apply hand cream before you put on the rubber gloves.
3. When pushing back your cuticles (it is not necessary to cut them) come in at a 45-degree angle and be very gentle. Otherwise the cuticle will become damaged, weakening the entire nail, says Mariana Diaconescu, manicurist at the Pierre Michel Salon in New York City.
4. Trim your toenails straight across to avoid ingrown toenails. This is particularly important if you have diabetes.
5. Dry your hands for at least two minutes after doing the dishes, taking a bath/shower, etc. Also dry your toes thoroughly after swimming or showering. Leaving them damp increases your risk of fungal infection.
6. Air out your work boots and athletic shoes. Better yet, keep two pairs and switch between them so you’re never putting your feet into damp, sweaty shoes, which could lead to fungal infections.
7. Wear 100 percent cotton socks. They’re best for absorbing dampness, thus preventing fungal infections.
8. Stretch out the beauty of a manicure by applying a fresh top coat every day, says Susie Galvez, owner of Face Works Day Spa in Richmond, Virginia, and author of Hello Beautiful: 365 Ways to Be Even More Beautiful.
9. Make your nails as strong as a horse’s hooves, and take 300 micrograms of the B vitamin biotin four to six times a day. Long ago, veterinarians discovered that biotin strengthened horses’ hooves, which are made from keratin, the same substance in human nails. Swiss researchers found that people who took 2.5 milligrams of biotin a day for 5.5 months had firmer, harder nails. In a U.S. study, 63 percent of people taking biotin for brittle nails experienced an improvement.
10. Add a glass of milk and a hard-boiled egg to your daily diet. Rich in zinc, they’ll do wonders for your nails, especially if your nails are spotted with white, a sign of low zinc intake.
11. File your nails correctly. To keep your nails at their strongest, avoid filing in a back-and-forth motion — only go in one direction. And never file just after you’ve gotten out of a shower or bath — wet nails break more easily.
12. Massage your nails to keep them extra strong and shiny. Nails buffing increases blood supply to the nail, which stimulates the matrix of the nail to grow, says Galvez.
13. Polish your nails, even if it’s just with a clear coat. It protects your nails, says manicurist Diaconescu. If you prefer color, use a base coat, two thin coats of color, and a top coat. Color should last at least seven days but should be removed after 10 days.
14. Avoid polish removers with acetone or formaldehyde. They’re terribly drying to nails, says Andrea Lynn Cambio, M.D., a New York City dermatologist. Use acetate-based removers instead.
More Healthy Nail Habits:
- Keep your nails clean and dry
- Avoid nail-biting or picking
- Apply moisturizer to your nails and cuticles every day to help prevent cracking
- File your nails in one direction straight across and round the tip slightly, rather than filing to a point, trim & file regularly
- Don’t remove the cuticles or clean too deeply under your nails, which can lead to infection
- Don’t dig out ingrown toenails. See a dermatologist if they become bothersome
- Avoid nail polish removers that contain acetone or formaldehyde
- Bring your own instruments if you get frequent manicures
- If you have artificial nails, check regularly for green discoloration (a sign of bacterial infection)
- Eat a balanced diet and take vitamins containing biotin (more information on best foods for your nail health below)
- Keep your fingernails dry and clean to prevent bacteria, fungi and other organisms growing under fingernails. Wear cotton-lined rubber gloves when washing dishes, cleaning or using harsh chemicals, and avoid long soaks in tub.
- Use moisturizer on your hands. Rub the lotion into your fingernails and cuticles, too
QUESTION: HOW DO I STOP BITING MY NAILS?
QUESTION: WHAT FOODS ARE BEST FOR MY NAIL’S HEALTH?
ANSWER: Almonds, peanuts, yogurt, eggs, tomatoes, fresh fruits & vegetables and water. Those foods are great for your nails because they contain biotin. You need 2.5 mg of biotin a day for strong nail health. The worst thing you can do for your hair, nails and skin is starve your body. Good health is feeding yourself nutritious foods daily.
- Nail Care (avonladykathy.wordpress.com)
- How-To: Healthy Nails (bellasugar.com)
- Here’s What Smoking Does to Your Nails (bellasugar.com)
- How-To: An Easy Way to Remove Gunk From Under the Nails (bellasugar.com)
- Definition: Cuticles (bellasugar.com)
- Healthy Fingernails Benefit! (usanau.wordpress.com)
- The Top 5 Tricks For More healthy Fingernails (tmatthews39.wordpress.com)
- ASK Cosmetics’ “Ultimate Bare Naked Nail Challenge” Week 2 (thebeautifullagoon.com)
- Feet Care Tips (sexhealthdotme.wordpress.com)
- Brittle Nails (foodsventures.wordpress.com)
- Just What You’ve Been Waiting For: All About Nail Fungus (bellasugar.com)
If you have a question that wasn’t answered, feel free to leave it in the comments below.
Stay Healthy! 🙂