Do you often wonder what the doctor actually sees in your nails when diagnosing your illness? Well, believe it or not, the condition of your nails says a lot about your health. In fact, your nail condition can give you important warnings about your health. Certain shapes, colours and sizes of nails are actually tell-tale signs of an underlying disease. Here’s a look at common nail deformities that could be early signs of bigger health issues to worry about. Stretch your palms and get set to analyse the grooves, ridges, curves and colour of your talons.
One often finds horizontal transverse lines appearing on the nails. This could happen due to improper nail growth as a result of any serious disease such as Raynaud’s disease. Raynaud’s disease can cause tiny arteries serving the toes, fingers, ears, or nose go into spasm.
Pitting in the nails are small pinpoint depressions in the nail plate commonly seen in people suffering from psoriasis. Surveys show that upto 50 per cent of the people suffering from psoriasis have pitted nails. Pitted nails could also be a sign of vitamin B deficiency and chronic malnutrition.
Greenish-black nails can be caused by overgrowth of a certain type of bacteria called pseudomonas. The black stripes or pigmentation may become darker overtime, and it could start in one nail and then gradually affect the others.
Brittle nails are common in people suffering from kidney disease, and anemia. An underlying thyroid disease could also be a cause of brittle and dry fingernails that chip, crack and split easily. Prolonged fungal infection can also make nails brittle.
Longitudinal striations or accentuated ridges on the nails is not a big reason to worry about as it could be a part of the normal variations in cell formation. However, if the ridges deepen and harden and take a deformed shape, it could be an early sign for rheumatoid arthritis, severe protein deficiency or even Lichen planus — a chronic itchy rash that affects the skin under the nail.
Clubbing of nails
This happens due to thickening of the tissue under the nail, causing thickening of that part of the finger. It could be a sign of chronic lung conditions, inflammation of the bowel or certain congenital heart diseases. The nail tends to be bulbous, detached from the nail bed, curving downward and taking the shape of an inverted spoon.
Separation of the nail plate from the nail bed is due to warts, fungal infections, psoriasis or hyperthyroidism. It’s a disease in itself, called Onycholysis. The nail thickens and gradually starts to appear whitish or cloudy yellow. Nail plates may start getting detached to the extent that it falls off the nail bed.
It could be a sign of a liver disorder called Wilson’s disease that prevents the body from getting rid of extra copper. Nails also turn blue due to extreme cold weather, poor blood circulation or respiratory diseases. Basically, when the body is deprived of adequate oxygen due to some kind of blockage, it can turn your nails blue.
With inputs from Dr Monica Mahajan, Max Super Speciality Hospital
Dr D K Agarwal, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital
Dr Srikant Sharma, Moolchand Medcity
Dr Arvind Agarwal, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute
Dr Satish Koul, Columbia Asia Hospital
Dr Purshottam Lal, Metro Group of Hospitals.