….the nails on each of your fingers grow at a different rate, with those on the longest finger growing the fastest.
Your nails are basically dead proteins, and made of keratin – the same substance that makes up the horns, hooves, and claws of animals. But human nails are different -they are just a translucent cover over a bed of soft tissue full of tiny capillaries and nerves, and therefore, reflect any physiological changes.
Even a quick look at the color of your nails can reveal a lot to a medical practitioner. But, color is not the only indicator; white spots, grooves, and the lunula (tiny white semicircle at the base of the nails), can all say a lot about your well-being. The nails don’t just expose the physical problems though, they can also uncover the mental state of the person – like stress or OCD.
Although useful for a quick diagnosis, determining an illness or disorder should be left to a physician, who is also likely to take the help of several other diagnostic tests to accurately determine the state of your health. Nevertheless, a change in the color or texture of the nails can be indicative of several health problems, such as –
If you visit a physician complaining of fatigue or tiredness, he/she might first observe your hands, or fingernails to be precise. The reason for this is that, small changes in the appearance of the nails can be due to a number of nutritional deficiencies, such as –
➤ Koilonychia – or spoon-shaped nails can be caused due to iron deficiency anemia or deficiency of vitamin B12. They can also make your nails whiter or paler as compared to their usual color.
➤ Small white spots or lines on the nails can indicate a diet lacking in zinc.
Fungal infections like candida yeast or athlete’s foot can make the nails discolored, turning them yellow, green, white, or even black. The infected nail or nails will also thicken and look very unsightly. They will start cracking, peeling, and the entire nail might even fall off.
Frequent infections can also be indicative of a compromised immune system or other diseases, for example diabetes.
Damaged, ugly-looking nails can also be due to psoriasis, which causes the skin to erupt in red, scaly rashes. Nail psoriasis can give a yellowish-brown color to the nails, or even separation of the nail from the nail bed, called onycholysis. Another sign of psoriasis is pitting of the nails, in which small, pin-shaped holes or pits appear on the nails.
Terry nails, a condition of the nails characterized by the presence of a dark band at the end of the nails, is a strong indicator of liver diseases like liver cirrhosis, although, they can also appear due to aging, heart, or kidney related conditions.
The appearance of small, beaded, vertical bands on the nails can indicate thyroid problems. Brittle nails and vertical ridges are very common in people with hypothyroidism, along with dry skin, poor memory, and weight gain.
A vertical band of blacking or brownish coloration on the nails could be the first sign of melanoma or skin cancer. Although, this can also occur due to an injury or heart condition, it is best to get it checked by a physician.
A bluish color of the nails could be a sign of poor circulation due to a lung condition. Deprivation of oxygen can also lead to clubbing of the hands – in which the finger pads thicken and the nails curve down around them. It can result from several heart or lung diseases, like lung cancer, tuberculosis, or cystic fibrosis. Certain heart conditions can also turn the nail bed red in color.
Nails, thus, can offer clues regarding some minor as well as serious diseases a person may be suffering from. But, a number of conditions can alter the nails in a similar manner, and therefore, they should be used for diagnosis, keeping in mind other symptoms and diagnostic tests too.