There are parts of our bodies that can tell us a lot about our health and reflect what is going on inside. Our eyes are supposedly the windows to our bodies–if they bloodshot or yellow, we know that something has gone awry–but have you ever thought to look to your nails to find out more about what’s going on inside of you? Most of us don’t pay much attention to our hands and nails, but they can be great signifiers of health. Here are some signs to look out for.
1. Blue nails
You might have seen your fingernails turn blue when you are very cold, and this is a natural bodily response caused by constricting blood vessels. However, sometimes, blue nails can signal a more serious problem. Also known as cyanosis, blue nails are caused by a lack of oxygen circulating in your red blood cells and can signal health issues including lung diseases like pneumonia, heart disorders including cardiac arrest, and abnormal blood vessels as in Raynaud’s syndrome. If you have blue nails along with symptoms like shortness of breath and chest pain, you should consult a doctor immediately.
2. Cracked nails
Cracked or brittle nails are often down to your nails becoming thinner, which is a normal part of aging. However, Onychoschizia (the scientific name for cracked nails) is sometimes triggered by an internal problem. This can be as minor and easy to solve as a vitamin deficiency or something more worrying like anaemia or thyroid disease. Psoriasis, a skin condition, is often responsible for depressions and pitting in the nails along with cracking. Many people worry about ridges in their nails; the direction of the ridge should be the focus here; vertical ridges are usually due to aging whilst horizontal Beaus lines can be a warning sign of malnourishment, pneumonia and uncontrolled diabetes.
3. Yellow nails
Yellowing nails aren’t only unsightly–they can sometimes indicate a health issue too. The most common cause of yellow nails is a fungal infection, which also causes crumbling or flaking of the nails, retraction of the nail bed, and occasionally a nasty odour. In less common cases, yellow nails are caused by more severe conditions, such as thyroid, liver and lung diseases, as well as diabetes. If the yellowing has been going on for a long period and is not cleared up with antifungals, get it checked out.
NOTE: If you are a smoker, yellow nails are most likely down to nicotine staining.
4. Chewed nails
Most people have had the odd chew on their nails when they are bored, nervous or trying to get rid of an annoying hangnail, but habitual nail-biting can be a sign of certain mental disorders. Chronic nail-biting, also known as onychophagy or onychophagia, is classified as a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and usually coexists with feelings of intense shame and unease which are relieved by the action of chewing.
If you find yourself chowing down on your nails more than usual, or you are causing harm to hands and nails combined with distressing emotions like anxiety, it might be time to consult a doctor.
5. White nails
You might think that white nails signify health, after all, a white-tipped French manicure is a lusted-after look!
Many people find white spots on their nails from time to time; this is a common and harmless condition called Leukonychia and is usually caused by injury to the nail bed, such as trapping your finger in a door, but it can also be down to deficiencies and allergies. Although white spots are generally harmless, if most of your nail bed is white with darker rims towards the top of the nail, it could be a sign of a more serious illness like hepatitis or kidney disease. Sometimes, horizontal white lines on the nails, called Mees’ lines, are a sign of arsenic or carbon monoxide poisoning.
As we have seen, your nails can reveal a multitude of things about your wellbeing. Although innocent issues can cause all of the symptoms listed above, it is important to keep an eye on your hands and nails as they can indicate some more serious health problems.
As for the looks, you can always visit your nearest nail salon to take care of your nails’ health and beauty.