What Can Your Fingernails Tell You about Your Health?

\"shutterstock_124545355\"Unless faced with a physical injury, most people don’t visit their primary care doctors about fingernail problems. But physicians often check patients’ fingernails because your nails can offer clues about potential health issues.

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, your nails can provide a window to your systemic health. Problems with the lungs, liver and heart often show early symptoms in the fingernails. Not all nail discoloration, disfigurement or detachment indicates a serious health problem. Physical injuries, chronic nail picking, and some minor infections can also affect the appearance of your nails.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are seven fingernail problems that should warrant attention from your primary care physician:

Yellow Nail Syndrome

A yellowish discoloration of the nails accompanied by thickening nails and slowed nail growth may be symptomatic of respiratory disease or lymphedema, a swelling of the hands. Nails affected by yellow nail syndrome may also lack cuticles or become detached from the nail bed. Fungal infection can also lead to yellowed nails.

Nail Pitting

Small depressions or pits in the nails are common among people who have psoriasis, which is characterized by scaly patches of skin. Nail pitting may also be associated with connective tissue disorders and alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that also results in hair loss.

Nail Clubbing

Nail clubbing occurs when the tips of the fingers become enlarged and the nails curve around the fingertips; nail clubbing typically develops over the course of years. Clubbed nails may be the result of low oxygen in the blood or a sign of lung disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease and liver disease.

Spoon Nails

Soft fingernails with depressions that appear to have been scooped out may be a sign of iron deficiency anemia or the liver condition known as hemochromatosis, in which the body absorbs too much iron from food. Spoon nails are also associated with heart disease and hypothyroidism.

Terry’s Nails

Terry’s nails are characterized by dark bands on the tip of each nail. This condition is sometimes due to the natural aging process, but it can also be a sign of liver disease, congestive heart failure or diabetes.

Beau’s Lines

Indentations that flow across the nails, Beau’s lines may appear when nail growth under the cuticle is affected by injury or illness. Conditions linked to Beau’s lines include uncontrolled diabetes and peripheral vascular disease, as well as ailments associated with high fever, such as scarlet fever, measles, mumps and pneumonia. Beau’s lines may also be an indicator of a zinc deficiency.

Loose or Detached Nails

Fingernails that become loose or detached are often the result of physical injury or infection. Nail separation may also be caused by an adverse reaction to a drug or product like nail hardeners or adhesives. Thyroid disease and psoriasis can also contribute to nail loosening and detachment.

If you notice fingernail problems, or if you’re seeking an experienced and friendly primary care physician in the greater Littleton, Colorado, area, please contact Dr. Andy Fine online or call 303-703-8583 today.

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