What your nails can reveal about your health

September 20, 2017 | by Nina Lundberg, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Who knew your finger and toenails could bear clues about your health?

It’s true. Your nails can display symptoms of certain health conditions. If you see something that seems strange going on with your nails, it’s probably a good idea to bring it up with your doctor.

Some of the problems that can affect your nails include:

  • Melanoma. This dangerous form of cancer can appear under your nail. It would look like a brown, vertical line running the length of your nail bed.
  • Clubbed nails. When your nails become rounded and curve down, it could signal a lung condition, cancer, liver disease or a heart problem.
  • Discoloration. Nails with a blue tint can signify a lung disease or Raynaud’s disease (a rare disorder of the blood vessels). A yellow tint could mean a fungal infection.
  • Nicks, or “pits”/cracks in the surface. This often accompanies psoriasis.
  • Brittle nails that break easily could simply need moisture, but severely brittle nails could indicate a thyroid problem.
  • Concave scoops in your nails could mean you have an iron deficiency.

The American Academy of Dermatology offers these tips to keep your nails healthy:

  • Keep nails clean and dry.
  • Cut nails straight across. Use sharp nail scissors or clippers. Round the nails slightly at the tips for maximum strength.
  • Keep nails shaped and free of snags by filing with an emery board.
  • Do not bite fingernails or remove the cuticle. Doing so can damage the nail.
  • Do not use your nails as a tool, such as opening pop cans.
  • Trim toenails regularly. Keeping them short will minimize the risk of trauma and injury.
  • When toenails are thick and difficult to cut, soak your feet in warm salt water. Mix one teaspoon of salt per pint of water and soak for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Avoid “digging out” ingrown toenails, especially if they are infected and sore. If you are suffering from an ingrown toenail, see a podiatrist for treatment.
  • Wear shoes that fit properly. Also alternate which pair of shoes you wear each day.
  • Wear flip flops at the pool and in public showers. This reduces the risk of infections caused by a fungus that can get in your toenails.

Your primary care physician is your partner for a Healthy Driven life! Find the right doctor for you.

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