Health Warnings Your Fingernails May Be Telling You

We often look at our fingernails as a thing to adorn, with various nail treatments and nail art. But have you really taken a good look at your (bare) fingernails lately? While you may not have paid much attention to them, they have a lot to tell you, especially regarding your health! There are hundreds of medical conditions that can cause nail changes. While it could only be a fungal infection or an injury, sometimes it can also indicate an even larger problem, like problems relating to your lungs, liver or even your heart.

Here are some health warnings your fingernails may be telling you:

1. Brittle Nails – While it can be a result of over-exposure to detergents or nail polish, brittle (or crumbly) nails can also indicate Lichen planus (a condition that forms a rash on the skin or inside the mouth), psoriasis or thyroid disease. In the most rare of cases, it can indicate reactive arthritis, a painful form of arthritis.

2. Thickened Nails – It is more commonly caused by a nail fungus, but thickened nails can also form because of psoriasis and reactive arthritis. If your thickened nails are also yellowish and slow-growing that may indicate lung disease.

3. Discolored Nails – A healthy nail bed should be pink with a slight pink-white moon at the base. Other colors on the nails can indicate health problems.

  • White: This could indicate liver disease, like hepatitis.
  • Yellow: This can indicate jaundice due to a liver problem, thyroid gland problems, lung infection, or a sinus infection.
  • Grey: This can be caused by medication.
  • Brown: This can indicate malnutrition or thyroid disease.
  • Green: This is usually a sign of bacterial infection.

4. Pitted Nails – Pitting, or small dents on the nails, can mean psoriasis, reactive arthritis, and/or alopecia areata, which is hair loss because of autoimmune disease. It also indicates zinc deficiency.

5. Clubbed Nails – Often harmless, this happens when fingertips and nails are unusually curved around the fingertips. However, if it suddenly occurs, that’s when it can get bad, indicating low oxygen level that really means lung disease, as well as liver disease, heart disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, and even AIDS.

Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for JINsoon

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Written by Patty Gopez

Patty is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and self-proclaimed pop culture junkie. She was previously an editor at Buzznet and lives and breathes entertainment. When she's not writing, you can catch her sitting in the middle of a dark theater catching the latest flick, whipping up tasty treats or snuggling with her pug, Romeo.