We’ve all heard rumors about how the condition of your fingernails can be a sign of various health conditions, but rarely do we see hard evidence of this correlation. Recently, there have been a few revelations about what various fingernail conditions can reveal about your health and the results are pretty unexpected. As it turns out, there are several health problems that can manifest themselves in the cosmetic appearance of fingernails long before more drastic symptoms would ever be noticed.
When the fingernails are turned downward and very rounded it’s referred to as clubbed nails. For some people clubbed nails are just the natural shape of the nail and fingertip, but for others severe clubbing can be a sign of heart and lung issues.
Recently, a woman in the UK, Jean Taylor, posted a photo of her clubbed nails online. She hadn’t seen her nails that long in years since she had worked in a factory for many years. Upon getting a desk job and growing her nails out, she found they were clubbed like her mother’s had been. Her daughter, Stephanie, then urged her to get checked out by a doctor after she Googled what clubbed nails might mean.
As it turns out, Jean did go to the doctor and was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer in both lungs, for which she will now face surgery. Jean’s mother was also diagnosed with lung cancer and had to have half a lung removed. This particular sign of lung cancer isn’t all that common, but in general clubbed nails have long been associated with poor lung function or heart disease.
Many times clubbed fingernails are asymptomatic, meaning there are no symptoms that go with this physical trait. However, in a small number of cases the clubbing comes with lung problems like cancer, mesothelioma, bronchitis, and also non-lung problems like cirrhosis and heart disease.
Nails with divots white spots, and pocks can just be hard-worked hands, but sometimes they can also be a sign of psoriasis or dermatitis. Psoriasis of the nail can cause not only nail changes, but also stiffness and pain in joints and skin problems in other areas of the body.
A dark stripe running down one nail is pretty uncommon. But, if this does happen, barring any bruising incidents that could leave a striped blister under the nail, this condition should be examined by a doctor right away. When a nail develops a dark line it can often be a sign of Acral Lentiginous melanoma.
Melanoma should be treated as soon as possible to avoid the spread of malignant growths. Skin cancers are some of the most treatable cancers, but the best chance for survival is if treatment is started early. If you have a stripe down one nail it should be examined by a doctor.
Bands of discoloration going cross-wise can be a sign of cirrhosis or other liver problems and are sometimes referred to as Terry’s nails. This type of discoloration will usually be across all the nails, not just one and can also be accompanied by the absence of the lunula (the light half moons at the bottom of nails).
Aa raised ridge down the center of the nail can be a sign of nutritional deficiencies and the same can be said of a vertical line as well. However, the two can signal different nutritional problems. Some minerals and vitamins you could be missing out on if you have these lines are zinc, iron, or B vitamins (the latter deficiency can also cause other nails symptoms like streaking).
Vertical lines on nails can also just come with age, but it’s important to make sure to eat a balanced diet and get regular check ups to avoid a nutritional deficiency from causing problems long term.
Lines that go across the fingernail can be a sign of something more serious than just a missing vitamin of mineral from the diet. The most common cause of these lines is injury to the nail plate which can cause hiccups in the growth of the nail. Injuries like slamming your finger in the door or accidentally hitting it with a hammer can cause these lumpy cross-wise lines to appear when the nail later grows out. Sometimes these lines are called Beau’s lines, named for the French physician who studied them extensively in the 1800s.
However, if these lines appear on multiple nails, especially without injury, then they could be a sign of a systemic issue. These lines can sometimes indicate problems with the the liver or kidneys and can even show untreated circulation problems, diseases that cause fever (like mumps and syphilis), as well as myocardial infarction. These lines or ridges can also be a reaction to chemotherapy.