The eyes can be the windows to the soul, but the nails can be the door to health. They can reveal the secrets of your overall health, as well as provide clues about conditions or illnesses you may not know you have. But Dr. Jeffrey Linder, chief of internal medicine and geriatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, says that some nail changes are simply the result of aging, so “it’s important not to be alarmed if you see something abnormal.” he says he.
Changes in the nails to take into account:
• lunula color. According to AARP, nails have a white crescent shape at their base, just above the cuticle. A change in color or size could indicate underlying disease. For example, if the lunula extends almost to the top of the nail, making most of the nail white, it could be a sign of liver cirrhosis, chronic kidney failure, or congestive heart failure.
• yellow nails. One of the most common causes of yellow nails is a fungal infection, says WebMD. As the infection worsens, the nail bed can shrink and the nails can thicken and crumble. In rare cases, yellow nails can indicate serious thyroid disease, lung disease, or diabetes.
• undulations. If the nail surface is rippled or pitted, this could be an early sign of inflammatory arthritis. The skin under the nail may also appear reddish brown.
• bitten nails. A nail-biting habit may indicate an underlying anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you can’t stop biting your nails, see a health professional, says WebMD.
• Lines. If there is a streak of dark color running across the nails, this could be a sign of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. See your doctor or dermatologist right away if you notice this sign.
• go clubbing. Nail clubbing occurs when the tips of the fingers become enlarged and the nails curve around the tips of the fingers, usually over the course of years, says the Mayo Clinic. Clubbing on the nails could indicate a low level of oxygen in the blood caused by various types of lung diseases. Nail clubbing is also associated with inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and AIDS.
• bites. Ice pick-shaped depressions in the nails are called nail pits and are common in people who have psoriasis. Nail pitting is also associated with connective tissue disorders, such as alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.
• Beau’s lines. These are indentations that run horizontally across the nails and are linked to uncontrolled diabetes and peripheral vascular disease, as well as diseases associated with high fevers, such as scarlet fever, measles, mumps, and pneumonia. Beau’s lines are also a sign of zinc deficiency, says the Mayo Clinic.
• blue tone. Nails that look bluish may be a warning sign of COVID-19, says AARP. Linder says this could indicate low blood oxygen levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone who has this symptom seek immediate medical attention.
• brittle nails. If your nails are thin and brittle, this may indicate a thyroid disorder. But it may be that they just need a little more TLC. Wear gloves when doing dishes or cleaning with chemicals that can affect your nails. Another way to keep your nails healthy is to eat a well-balanced diet.
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