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10 nail deformities that could lead to bigger health problems

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...

health and fitness Updated: Jun 13, 2013 11:20 IST
Debasmita Ghosh
Debasmita Ghosh
Hindustan Times

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 that you might be suffering from. Today, we tell you about 10 such nail deformities that could be early signs of bigger health issues to worry about. So, stretch your palms and get set to analyse the grooves, ridges, curves and colour of your talons.

Transverse lines
One often finds horizontal transverse lines appearing on the nails. Also termed as Beau’s lines, this could happen due to improper nail growth as a result of any serious disease such as Raynaud’s disease that’s disrupting the nail growth. Raynaud’s disease happens when the tiny arteries serving the toes, fingers, ears, or nose go into spasm.

Pitted nails
Pitting in the nails are small pinpoint depressions in the nail plate commonly seen in people suffering from psoriasis. Survey shows that upto 50% people suffering from psoriasis have pitted nails. Pitted nails could also be a sign of vitamin B deficiency and chronic malnutrition.

Hyper pigmentation
Greenish-black nails can be caused by overgrowth of a certain type of bacteria called pseudomonas. Hyper pigmented black band or stripes on the nails should also be checked for a kind of skin cancer called melanoma. The black stripes or pigmentation may become darker overtime, and it could start in one nail and then gradually affect the others.

Brittle nails
Brittle nails are common in people with kidney disease, and also iron deficiency called 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
Longitudinal striations or accentuated ridges on the nails is not a big reason to worry about as it’s just 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 disease (IBD) 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.

Detached nails
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 extend that it falls off the nail bed.

Blue nails
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.

Half & half/ Terry nails
It’s characterised by a white ground-glass appearance of the proximal end of the nail. It’s a common symptom in people suffering from kidney or renal diseases. The link is not fully understood, but one theory explains that kidney failure causes a buildup of nitrogen waste in the body, which leads to changes in finger and toenails. Up to 40% of people with kidney failure have half-and-half fingernails.

Spoon-shaped nails
Spoon–shaped nails or koilonychia, as it’s called in medical terms, may represent anaemia or iron deficiency, or even hemochromatosis that is iron accumulation in the body. It could also be the early signs of a disease where the immune system attacks the cells and organs. The nails may gradually turn brittle.

First Published: Jun 12, 2013 16:09 IST