Fingernails and health

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: March 13th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Are your nails the picture of health? Yes and no. A close look at your fingernails can give your doctor important clues about your health.

Healthy nails are white at the top, pink in the nail plate, and white at the base. A bluish tint may mean you’re not getting enough oxygen. A whitish hue to the skin under your nails could indicate a low red blood count and possible anemia. Dark or black lines under the nails may be a warning sign of melanoma.

Changes in your nails are not the first symptom of a serious condition. Nor are these changes evident in all patients. For example, white nails could be a sign of liver disease, but may not be. Likewise, not every patient who has liver disease develops white nails.

As you care for your nails, pay attention to any changes that may be helpful to a potential diagnosis. Yellowish nails could be a symptom of lung disease such as emphysema, or diabetes.

Half-white, half-pink nails may be associated with kidney disease. Red nail beds may be a red flag for heart disease. Raised ridges have been linked to iron deficiency.

The most common nail disorders develop from fungal infections, which may require a physician’s care. Keep your nails clean, clipped, moisturized and filed to a rounded tip. Break the habit of biting or picking with your nails. While not the only guide to your health, your nails could be telling you something. Take good care of them.