Nails are not just used to show off our favorite color or artwork. They can be a window to your health. Your nails can tell you if you have a hidden condition.
If you've ever looked at your fingernails, you may have noticed white spots. If you didn't know what they were, you probably became a bit curious. Many medical conditions have symptoms that would not be visible immediately through appearance alone. But if you learn to examine deeply and read beyond the surface, you might just be able to identify something that might surprise you. Can you spot anything unusual about your nails?
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Conditions discovered when looking at your nails
1. White spots on nails
When you look at your fingernails and see white spots, it may be a sign of one of many conditions.
White spots on nails can be caused by several medical conditions, including:
Fungal infections - White spots on nails can be caused by fungal infections such as tinea unguium (nail fungus). These infections usually start on the tip of the toes or fingers and can spread to other areas if not treated. Fungal nail infections need to be treated by a doctor with medication or antifungal ointments.
Psoriasis - Psoriasis is another condition that can lead to white spots on nails. This condition causes patches of thickened skin that usually occur on the elbows and knees but can also appear around the mouth or eyes. Psoriasis may also cause scaling of the scalp or dandruff-like flakes in addition to the discoloration of your nails.
Allergies - Allergies can cause white spots on nails and many other symptoms, including redness and swelling in the eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, and more. The reaction may be caused by a variety of things such as pollen, mold, or animal dander.
Injuries - injuries to your nail bed, which is the area beneath your fingernail, can cause white spots on your nails, which should heal on their own over time.
2. Spoon nails
Spoon nails, also known as spooning or spoon-shaped nails, are a condition in which the free edge of the nail looks like a spoon. It occurs when the nail has been damaged by trauma or disease and its layers tear apart. The outer layer of the nail is then folded over, giving it an appearance similar to that of a spoon.
Psoriasis - This is the most common cause of spoon nails. Psoriasis causes inflammation and thickening of the outer layer of skin cells (keratinocytes). This results in a buildup of dead skin cells on the surface of your nails that causes them to curve down into a spoon shape.
Other conditions that can cause spoon nails are:
Iron deficiency anemia
Liver diseases such as cirrhosis (scarring and damage to the liver)
Malnutrition, which can lead to anemia or iron deficiency
Thyroid problems, such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland)
Oral contraceptives (birth control pills), can cause spoon nails in some women
Spoon nails may also be caused by genetic factors, such as Down syndrome or Marfan syndrome.
In rare cases, spoon nails can indicate an underlying heart problem called mitral valve prolapse.
3. Yellow nails
Yellow nails can be a sign of many underlying conditions. The yellowing is caused by excess keratin, a protein in the nail bed.
Here are some of the most common causes of yellow nails:
Jaundice (a condition in which high levels of bilirubin cause the skin, mucous membranes, and the white area of the eyes to turn yellow)
Biliary tract disorders (disorders that affect the gallbladder and bile ducts)
Leukemia (a cancer of the tissues that form blood) and lymphoma (a cancer of the lymphatic system)
Hemochromatosis (a disorder where too much iron is absorbed from food)
Yellow nails can also be a symptom of an inflammatory condition like psoriasis or eczema. It is important to consult a doctor if you notice yellowing of your nails because it can indicate a disease like diabetes or a thyroid condition.
4. Clubbing nails
Clubbing of nails is a condition in which the fingernails or toenails become larger, wider, and flatter.
Clubbing occurs due to an accumulation of fluid in the soft tissue under the nail. Lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), tuberculosis (TB), pneumonia, fungal infections, cancer, and bronchiectasis can cause clubbing nails.
Also, clubbing may be seen in patients with heart failure or valvular heart disease.
5. Vertical Ridges Nails
The vertical ridges in the nail are more common than the horizontal ridges. They are also known as Beau’s lines. Vertical ridges in nails can occur due to several reasons. They are usually white, but they may also be yellow or brownish-red depending on the underlying cause. It may be a single line or it may be multiple lines. It is important to know the meaning of vertical ridges in nails because they could signify an underlying medical condition or disease.
The most common cause of vertical ridges in nails is trauma to the nail matrix. Trauma can be caused by many things, including fractures, bruises, and cuts. These can lead to vertical ridges in fingernails and toenails if they aren't treated properly or if they don't heal adequately.
Other causes of vertical ridges are:
Hyperkeratosis - Thickening of the skin of the fingertips.
Psoriasis - an autoimmune disease that causes skin cells to build up on top of one another (plaque)
Fungal infection - an infection caused by fungi that usually affects nails
Aging - As we age, our skin becomes thinner, drier, and less elastic, which can lead to vertical ridges forming on our nails.
Exposure to Cold Temperatures - Cold temperatures can make our hands and feet dry and brittle, which may lead to vertical ridges.
6. Pitting nails
Pitting nails is a sign of deeper problems in your body.
Pitting nails refers to tiny depressions on the surface of the nail that form an irregular pattern. These depressions may be small or large and they can be deep or shallow. The depressions can appear as one or multiple along the nail’s surface, which will vary depending on the underlying cause.
There are many causes of pitted nails, including:
Psoriasis, Sarcoidosis, Hair loss (alopecia), Psoriatic arthritis, Eczema, Fungal infections
To conclude, finger and toenails tell a lot about your overall health and provide many useful insights. Many health issues can be detected through the appearance and details of your nails. If you are inspecting your nails now and find something similar to what was discussed in this post, talk to your doctor. There might be a condition yet to discover. Never is too late to take action.
And as always, follow a healthy lifestyle and come back for the next topic.
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