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Fingernails: What Can They Tell You About Health?

Updated: Jan 31

Healthy fingernails are smooth, pink and lustrous. We often observe signs in our patients’ fingernails that provide clues to possible nutrient deficiencies and other underlying problems. Take a look at your nails.

Here’s what to look for: Very pale nails: may mean a trauma to the nail, but if they are all pale, consider anemia and other nutrient deficiencies, or even kidney or heart problems. Yellow nails usually mean fungal infection of the nails, especially if the nails are thickened and somewhat hard or crumbly. Longitudinal ridges usually correlate with digestive insufficiency, often with low stomach acid production. Blue nails mean the nails are not getting enough oxygen. This can happen if there is poor circulation or lung disease, like emphysema. White nails with dark rims are often seen in liver problems, like hepatitis or liver fibrosis. Greyish nails may be due to B12 deficiency, especially in the elderly. Rippled or pitted nails can be an early sign of psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis. Deep cracks that split the nail have been linked to thyroid problems. Puffy, inflamed cuticles can mean chronic exposure to chemical irritants, allergens, mold or Candida albicans. A dark streak down the nail is a melanin pigment deposit. This can occur after a trauma or infection in the nail, but can also be a sign of skin cancer. Do get it checked out if you see this. Brittle nails often come with poor circulation to the extremities, including in Raynaud’s syndrome. They can also be a sign of low calcium intake, hypothyroidism, and are a common side effect of chemotherapy. Concave spoon-shaped nails are a sign of significant iron deficiency anemia, but can also be seen in some heart conditions. White lines across the nails, called Beau’s lines, may be seen after an illness. These, or white spots on nails, can often signal zinc deficiency. The following changes in the nails should never be ignored:

  • Severe discolouration or dark lengthwise streaks

  • Curling, clubbing or pitting of the nails

  • Separation from the nail bed, (except of course if you smashed your nail in a car door or with a hammer!)

  • Swelling and inflammation around all the cuticles of your nails

Every part of your body is a reflection of the whole, and can provide clues about your health, fingernails included!

What about toenails? We commonly see people who have lived with fungal toenails for years. They have often tried topical treatments and found they haven’t worked. Most people don’t realize that the fungal problem is likely deeper than just their toenails. Fortunately, there are many natural treatments for deeper fungal problems.

For help with this, seek out a Naturopathic Doctor.

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