If you are noticing changes in your nails, it may be a sign of a more significant issue. Read on to find out more about the way nails change with our health.
What your nails could be telling you about your health
At first glance, our nails don’t serve much purpose beyond giving our fingers grip and protection, but as they grow, they can begin to exhibit clues about our overall health. From nutritional deficiencies to stress — and some of the more serious conditions — a less-than-perfect set of nails can warn us of the silent struggles our bodies are facing.
Typically, a healthy nail will be strong and resilient, and have a smooth, regular texture without any deep grooves (also known as Beau’s Lines). The nail bed, which is composed of the tissue beneath your nail, should be pink or mauve, and the skin around the nail should be free of irritation and swelling.
This is a very common condition; at some point in their lives, the vast majority of people will notice a few superficial white spots or streaks appear on their nails. Also known as Leukonychia, these white spots are typically harmless, and tend to indicate that you have sustained an injury to your nail bed. It may also be a sign that you are suffering from a mineral deficiency, and that your diet is lacking calcium or zinc.
Occasionally, Leukonychia can be a sign that you have had a mild allergic reaction to a certain nail polish; if you have recently begun using a new brand, consider switching back to an old polish and waiting to see if the spots go away.
Fragile, thin nails prone to breaking off can be a sign of anaemia, which is a condition caused by insufficient blood cells. They may also indicate a thyroid issue, so it’s best to consult your GP if you are suffering from brittle nails.
Yellowing, Thickness, and Distortion
Discoloration and a change in the nail’s shape and texture is most commonly caused by a fungal nail infection. This is typically seen in the toenails, and may also cause some discomfort or pain, especially when walking, though it can also affect your fingernails.
Fungal nail infection treatment is very straightforward, although it does take time and consistent application for the fungal infection to leave the nail for good.
Antifungal nail paint is a very effective fungal nail infection treatment, and it works without any of the side effects associated with oral medicine. Although fungi do not pose a great risk to those without a compromised immune system, seeking fungal nail infection treatment will ensure that your digits do not become unsightly, painful, and malodorous.
With ageing, it is common to experience a change in texture on the surface of your nails, with a few superficial, vertical ridges extending between the cuticle and the tip of the nail.
However, deeper, horizontal lines can be a sign of a more serious medical condition, from diabetes to mumps, and may prevent the nail from growing. Chemotherapy treatments can also cause these ridges to appear in the nails.
If you have dark grey or black lines on your nails, this may have been caused by trauma to the nail, but it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible, as it can be a sign of endocarditis or melanoma.
If your nails have a bluish tint to them, then this is a strong sign that your body is under-oxygenated, which may be a result of a lung or heart condition. Consult a doctor if your nails are blue.
Nails should be strong, but if you feel that they have become difficult to trim with nail clippers, this can be a sign of many different conditions. It may mean that you need to seek fungal nail infection treatment, or it may be a side effect of a more serious condition, such as psoriasis or diabetes.
Clubbed nails will curve around the fingertips, which may appear swollen or enlarged. Clubbing does not typically appear out of the blue; it is a gradual change — usually over several years — and tends to be caused by long term medical conditions, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or issues with the heart or liver.
Remember that it is normal for nails to change in shape and texture as you grow older, and that it is important to take care of your nails by ensuring that they are not cut too short, that you keep them moisturised, and that you seek a fungal nail infection treatment to prevent the condition worsening, and spreading to other nails.