11 Nail Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore

Discussion in 'Dermatology' started by Hala, Oct 10, 2014.

  1. Hala

    Hala Golden Member Verified Doctor

    Oct 17, 2013
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    If you ever go for a dermatologist screening, they'll request that you remove your nail polish. This is also true if you end up in surgery. Why all the hate for polish? Turns out, your nails can reveal serious concerns about your health. Check out these revealing signs.

    Darkened Nails

    These can mean a few things, says Jessica Krant, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and founder of Art of Dermatology. First, it could be just a natural, genetic pigmentary change, like a freckle. But if there's a dark streak along the nail from cuticle to tip and there's only one—or it's changing fast—it may mean something more serious: melanoma of the nail, says Krant. This is a form of skin cancer and potentially deadly. Some nail fungus infections can also be dark gray or green.

    Blue-ish Nails

    And by that, we mean blue-ish nail beds, which signify that your fingertips aren't receiving enough oxygenated blood, says Krant. This can be a sign that your circulation is bad in your hands and feet or that your lungs aren’t properly oxygenatating the blood in your whole body—either due to lung disease or heart disease.

    Whitened Nails

    These can mean several bad things, but the most serious thing to worry about is liver disease, says Krant. So if you notice this, make sure to bring it up with your doctor.

    Thinning Nails

    Thin, peeling, or spoon-shaped nails (ones that are curved in a concave instead of convex way) are associated with iron-deficiency anemia, says Krant.

    Brittle Nails

    If you have nails that are hard but break easily, this can be a sign of dryness or possibly hypothyroidism—especially if you also have thinning or unusually dry hair, says Krant.

    Longitudinal (Vertical) Ridges

    These usually develop normally with age. "It's a sign that the nail matrix (the root of the nail under the cuticle) is drying out," says Krant. "Sometimes it's possible to make it better by keeping extra-heavy moisturizing emollients and ointments on the cuticles and nails.
    Horizontal Ridges

    A deep horizontal ridge with normal nail on either side usually means there was some specific trauma, stress, illness, or other metabolic disruption for a defined period before the nail went back to normal growth patterns, says Krant.

    Separated from the Nail Bed

    A nail detached from the nail bed (onycholysis) can mean nail fungus or infection under the nail, but it may also be caused by certain medications. Either way, see your doctor, says Dr. Krant.

    Flattened angle at cuticle

    Club-shaped fingertips with broad, flattened nails and cuticle zones are a sign of poor oxygenation of the blood. Clubbing is a common sign in cystic fibrosis in the young, but also in chronic lung disease in the elderly, says Dr. Krant.

    Small Indentations or Pits

    Small dots or pits in the nail may indicate psoriasis. This can be confined solely to the nails and be relatively harmless, or it may indicate a likelihood of more extensive skin psoriasis or internal psoriatic arthritis. Since psoriasis is linked to a higher risk of heart disease due to chronic inflammation, the nail pits may be a valuable flag, says Dr. Krant.


    Not all thickened nails are caused by fungus, which is why it’s important to get a test before starting any risky medication or expensive treatment. Some thickened rough nails are actually caused by psoriasis in a different presentation than the previously mentioned nail pits.


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