6 Things Your Nails are Trying to Tell You About Your Health

Your fingers can speak volumes about your wellbeing

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When GP Dr Dawn Harper, was at medical school she would quite often be asked to look at somebody's hands and then give them a diagnosis.

'There are times when you genuinely can do this and read someone's health by their nails.'So what are you nails saying about your health?

1. Concave (spoon-shaped) nails

Also known as koilonychias, as the name suggests spoon-shaped nails will curve inwards and will be indented.

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What it means about your health?  

Dr Dawn says this is often a sign of iron deficiency due to a lack of red blood cells. In some cases it can be a sign of Raynaud's disease or hypothyroidism. What to do about it?  Go and see your GP to have a blood test and see if you're iron deficient. Iron tablets will rapidly reverse anaemia – but make sure you're diet is rich in iron and includes wholemeal bread, cereals, eggs and dried fruit.

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2. Deep horizontal ridged nails

Also known as Beau lines, these are deep horizontal lines or grooves going across the nail.

What it means about your health? 

Horizontal ridged nails can be a sign that your diet is lacking in zinc. Illness, injury and cold temperatures, especially if you have Raynaud's disease, can cause nail grooves to form at the base of the nailsWhat to do about it? Zinc is a mineral that's required by the body. You should be able to obtain all the zinc you need in your daily diet. Good sources are milk, eggs, cheese, nuts and pulses, wholegrains and meat.

3. White marks

The nail plate has turned white and the fingernail bed can look a very pale.What it means about your health? This is likely to be a fungal nail infection or due to a lack of circulation where the blood isn't reaching the end of the fingertips, also known as Terry's nail.Terry's nail can be a sign of a wide range of medical conditions, including the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Liver, kidney or heart failure
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Chemotherapy
  • An overactive thyroid
  • Iron deficiency
  • Malnutrition.  

What to do about it?  

A fungal infection can be treated with anti-fungal tablets, but if you are concerned about Terry's nail, visit your doctor for further investigation.

4. Yellow nailsDefinitely not the prettiest, and as the name suggests, yellow nails will have a subtle or yellow tint.

What it means about your health?

 It could be a number of things – a fungal infection, nail psoriasis, tuberculosis, jaundice, sinusitis or smoking stains. Diabetes can also lead to yellowing of both the skin and nails. The colour change could be caused by the breakdown of glucose and the effect on protein (collagen) in the nail. Luckily most commonly stained nails are caused by frequent application of dark nail polish.

What to do about it? 

Be sure that your nails aren't discoloured by nail polish by soaking them in lukewarm water and gently scrubbing them with a toothbrush. Lemon is a natural bleaching agent, so add a few drops to some water. A fungal infection can be treated with anti-fungal tablets. If you are concerned about your nails book an appointment with your doctor.

5. Weak, brittle or splitting nails

Brittle nails will bend and break easily and also start to split.

What it means about your health? 

Weak nails can be a sign of ageing or long-term exposure to water or chemicals, such as nail varnish.

What to do about it? 

Have a breather for a week from nail polish in between manicures, advises Louise Jones, founder of L Beauty Therapy.'Take biotin (vitamin B7) to strengthen the nails and use rubber gloves when you're washing up.Philippa Lowe, dermatologist from the Cranley clinic says certain diseases can lead to nail changes and that brittle nails are an indicator of an over active thyroid disease. If brittle nails persist, take a visit to your doctor.

6. Thick nails

Thick nails can become overgrown and discoloured.

What it means about your health? 

Dr Dawn says this can be a caused by a fungal infection or alternatively it could be onychogryphosis, which is seen in older people or due to pressure on the nails over an extended period of time.What to do about it? Dr Dawn says that if she sees something like this, she will send some nail clippings off to the lab to search for fungi.'Actually you'll be surprised that quite often it comes back completely clear, so this will indicate onychogryphosis. But it means that you aren't taking anti-fungal treatment, which isn't going to work.'

How do you ensure optimum nail health?

Make sure that you have a balanced diet and Philippa recommends getting plenty ofiron (leafy veg, red meat, nuts), zinc (dark chocolate, peanuts) and B12 (eggs, cheese). Keep hands, nails and cuticles well moisturised and consider supplements if your doctor finds that your vitamin levels are low.'By moisturising skin and hands you can reduce water loss of the nails and improve hydration. Look for oatmeal based creams. Don't forget to keep cuticles moisturised too.'

Via

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