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Healthy Fingernails – Clues About Your Health

Healthy Fingernails – Clues About Your Health

Fingernail appearance can reflect a wide range of medical conditions.

Just like the eyes are the window to the soul, our finger nails are a picture of our overall health. The color and texture of our fingernails can reflect a wide range of medical conditions and to the trained eye, these imperfections can easily be spotted.

Healthy FingernailsIt’s important to keep healthy finger nails for a number of reasons. Our hands come into contact with millions of harmful bacteria everyday and under the fingernails is perfect breading ground for these bacteria. Clean nails means healthy nails and having healthier nails they are more sensitive to changes in appearance due to health problems.

Nail Biting Information

A common habit of both children and adults is bitting the nails. Here is a quick intro into an upcoming future article that relates to this topic of Healthy Fingernails:

Nail biting may result in the transportation of bacteria that are buried under the surface of the nail that are hard to clean and easy to get in the mouth. Likewise, broken skin on the cuticle may be susceptible to microbial and viral infections. These pathogens can be spread between digits via saliva. Extreme nailbiting can be considered to be a form of masochistic self-mutilation. Bitten fingertips can become very sensitive to pain, usually at the place the skin meets the edge of the nail.

Studies by Russian researchers on children living in the Ural mountains region have found that nail biting may be contributing to the loss of IQ due to lead poisoning. This is especially true among children who are still mentally developing. Nail biters who work with iron (plumbers, painters or printers) may also be susceptible to poisoning in a similar way.

Beautiful Finger Nails Tips

To maintain healthy fingernails, avoid infections, and improve nail appearance, try the following tips:

  • Keep your nails clean and dry
  • Avoid nail-biting or picking
  • Apply moisturizer to your nails and cuticles every day. Creams with urea, phospholipids, or lactic acid can help prevent cracking
  • File your nails in one direction and round the tip slightly, rather than filing to a point
  • 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

The 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 she sure he had fluid in his lungs and sure enough, the tests proved positive.

Joshua Fox, MD, director of Advanced Dermatology and spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatology says,

“Changes in the nails can be a sign of a local disease like a fungus infection or a sign of a systemic disease like lupus or anemia”¦..

“The nails offer many little clues to what’s going on inside you. Lupus patients get quirky, angular blood vessels in their nail folds. Psoriasis starts in the nails up to 10% of the time”

He explained that pale, whitish nail beds may indicate a low red blood cell count consistent with anemia, an iron deficiency can cause the nail bed to be thin and concave or have raised ridges, heart disease can turn the nail beds red, obsessive-compulsive disorder often shows up through persistent nail-biting or picking and even common disorders like thyroid disease can cause abnormalities in the nail beds, producing dry, brittle nails that crack and split easily.

Fingernails Diagram

10 Possible Signs of Serious Conditions

  1. White nails – Liver diseases such as hepatitis
  2. Yellowish, thickened, slow-growing nails – Lung diseases such as emphysema
  3. Yellowish nails with a slight blush at the base – Diabetes
  4. Half-white, half-pink nails – Kidney disease
  5. Red nail beds – Heart disease
  6. Pale or white nail beds – Anemia
  7. Pitting or rippling of the nail surface – Psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis
  8. “Clubbing,” a painless increase in tissue around the ends of the fingers, or inversion of the nail – Lung diseases
  9. Irregular red lines at the base of the nail fold – Lupus or connective tissue disease
  10. Dark lines beneath the nail – Melanoma

According to American College of Physicians spokesman Christine Laine,

“Nail changes are rarely the first clue of serious illness. In most instances, patients will manifest other signs or symptoms of disease before nail changes become evident. For example, it would be unusual that nail clubbing was the first thing a patient with emphysema noticed. Breathing difficulty probably would have been present already.”

Although it is not likely that a doctor will diagnose heart disease or kidney problems from the condition of your nails alone, it’s worthwhile to be vigilant about maintaining healthy fingernails so that you’ll be alert to any potential health problems.

One of the most common conditions is fingernail fungus, this causes the nails to crack, peel and change color or texture. These infections are often difficult to treat and may require professional help from a dermatologist.

Be alert to changes in texture, shape, or color that aren’t due to a bruise or fungal infection, including irregular growth, pitting or holes in the nails, dark brown streaks beneath the nail and cuticle, or long-standing warts on the nail bed

Any such color change to previously healthy fingernails is definitely a cause for concern.


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  1. What an exellent article,i report a health segment monthly in ft. lauderdale for a local radio station,i gather info and pass it on to the public,not per batem of course.such great points you make about nail health.i will surely share some of this with the community.Thank you so much,overall good heall is vitally important.Anna k 411 reporter

    • Janelle Bonson says:

      I chewed my nails all my life. It got so bad that I would have to bandage my fingers as they bled. They looked ugly.
      I noticed though that when I took a good vitamin pill I would stop biting my fingernails. If I forgot to take the vitamin pill I started picking at my nails again.
      Then I tried Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers taught me that I really was not eating enough food. With Weight Watchers I started to eat small meals frequently during the day. Even without the vitamins I now no longer had the urge to bite my nails.
      This is going to sound awful, but I think I was chewing my nails because I was not getting adequate nutrition during the day. It was almost like I was munching on myself! Gross, I know, but true.
      Yet, my idea of dieting was to cut way back on food intake. I thought I would lose faster if I ate less. Unfortunately, I just lowered my metabolism, making it harder to lose. If I did start to eat I gained faster as my body was not use to getting the food it needed.
      So I am not longer a nail biter. I never think about biting my nails and I eat a very healthy diet, with an occasional splurge, but the splurge has to be real food, with real cream, no artificial stuff for me. If I am going to splurge I want a small amount of the real stuff!

  2. Danielle says:

    I have a question, I sucked my thumb for the first 5 years. For as long as I can remember I have had a crack in my nail… Vertical from the Cutucle. the nail grows, but the crack stays…Its only on 1 nail ( Thumb) I am wondering if this is a sever problem with my health? or could I of just damaged my nail from sucking on my thumb as a child?

  3. You should definitely see a specialist about it, but first guess is that the Nail bed is the problem. In similar cases the nail was removed and allowed to fully regenerate again. It is a somewhat painful procedure and usually just done for cosmetic reasons.

    There are many factors that may lead to brittle and split nails. These could be anything like advancing age, lack of calcium, too much use of chemicals like nail polish remover, working for long hours in water or using detergent too often, etc. But the primary cause remains lack of nutrition. You need to include calcium and other important minerals and nutrients in your diet to make your nails stronger and healthier. Check out home remedy for treatment of rough and brittle nails.

    • Moisturizing your hands frequently helps a lot as it keeps your nails from drying and chipping off. Washing your hands often can cause dryness so make sure you keep a small bottle of moisturizer with yourself to apply it frequently. Also, apply it every time you feel your hands are a bit dry, you come back from a swim, after a bath, after you wash clothes, wash the dishes, etc.
    • A natural remedy for curing and strengthening brittle and rough nails is applying vegetable oil. Simply take some vegetable oil on a cotton swab and wipe it on your nails. It will make sure your nails remain moisturized and healthy.
    • You may also apply clarified butter (known as Ghee) on your nails to make them soft and strong. Clarified butter helps strengthen weak and brittle nails and also promotes their growth.
    • The main remedy and cure for brittle and split nails is to add more nutrients to your diet. Include foods that have biotin, a type of Vitamin B. Examples of such types of food are peanuts, lentils, egg yolks, sardines, mushrooms, bananas, liver, and cauliflower. Ask a doctor for biotin supplements to promote growth of nails.

    Injuries also open the door to infections, especially fungal infections. Although these generally plague toenails more often than fingernails (for the same reason athlete’s foot develops — the hot, moist environment of shoes could be similar to the environment in your mouth. The mouth contains a large amount of bacteria.), fungal infections can strike the nails on the hands, with some unpleasant consequences. Infection may turn the nail plate chalky white, yellowish, brownish, or even green and make the nail fold look red and irritated. (If you suspect a nail infection, discuss it with your doctor.)

    And finally, certain skin diseases, such as psoriasis, can show up in your nails.

    What you don’t want to occur: Separation of the nail plate from the nail bed, a condition called onycholysis. It can occur after an injury, infection, allergic reaction to a nail cosmetic, or exposure to chemicals or as a result of disease, such as psoriasis. If the nail appears white, it may have separated. You’ll need to see your doctor, and you’ll want to be careful not to aggravate the problem further. Unfortunately, once the nail separates, it won’t reattach; you have to wait for a new nail to grow in.

    You also want to take good care of the nail matrix. If this is damaged, it will start producing a deformed nail or, even worse, no nail at all.

  4. Onychorrhexis are brittle nails which often split vertically, peel and/or have vertical ridges.  This irregularity can be the result of heredity, the use of strong solvents in the workplace or the home, including household cleaning solutions. Although oil or paraffin treatments will re-hydrate the nail plate, one may wish to confer with a physician to rule out disease.

  5. I have a question:
    A few weeks ago I noticed that my nails have a crescent shaped ridge where they have become suddenly thicker.  I haven’t noticed a change in my health, and I haven’t changed my diet, etc.
    Is there anything significant here?

  6. my nail has been broken recently.I wonder about any nail deformity in future.please give me some information about nail healing,especially with image.thanks.

  7. I bit my nail by the cuticle and it formed a deep hole. The skin looks like it raised up through the hole. It’s very painful…can anyone help me?

  8. I have red flecks that appear in my finger nails, normally during periods of stress.  Been happening for a few years.  The colour of my nails is faintly changing (now in my 40s so this is probably ‘just one of those things’) from the cuticle up light purple, pink, white, pink, red.  Something to check out or ignore?

  9. glorysurgery says:

    I love great looking nails and hate when my nails are looking dried out.

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