If you're not a compulsive nail-biter then it's likely you spend some time grooming your nails. It only takes a quick glance or recent nail-break accident to get those repair and re-polish actions into quick automated motion. More and more women (and men) take the time to trim, buff and even coat or paint their nails or they get them done professionally. The only shops that rival the number of Starbucks in your town are likely to be grocery stores, convenience shops and nail salons.
You're not likely to spend a lot of time looking at your lovely digits when they are plain and bare, but you're missing out on what health clues and even alerts may be quietly lurking on them. Spots, stripes, and the odd color that may indicate something is going on with your body that you should be aware of and tend to.
Periodically checking your fingernails for abnormalities can help you spot early warning signs, so wipe off that polish and take a look.
If your fingernail beds are looking "ghostly" you may have anemia, a blood disorder characterized by a low red blood cell count. This usually results from low levels of iron which can cause a situation of inadequate oxygen in the blood. This then causes the skin and tissues to become pale, particularly the tissues under the nails. Consuming good sources of iron, including green leafy vegetables, beans, and red meat can help to boost your body's iron levels.
Pale nails can also be a sign of adult onset diabetes or liver disease and that can lead to impaired blood flow. To combat these you should avoid processed foods with refined sugars and carbohydrates and eat more fiber, vegetables, and whole grains. These can help to stabilize blood sugar levels and limit the circulatory damage caused by uncontrolled sugar levels. Liver disease warrants a trip to your healthcare provider for proper testing to get an accurate diagnosis.
Thickened nails, with or without a yellow tone, are characteristic of a fungal infection. Topical medication is often useless since the infection is in the nail bed itself and the underlying nail plate. A healthcare practitioner can prescribe an oral medication, which will reach the entire breadth of the infected nail, but always ask and check the side effect warning label.
Dark brown or black vertical lines on the nail bed should never be ignored because it can be an early sign of melanoma, which requires early detection and fast treatment.
Leave your nails alone and bare periodically so you can easily examine them.
Pitting is a condition of depressions and small cracks in your nails and are often associated with psoriasis, which is an inflammatory disease that leads to scaly or red patches all over the body. Individuals who suffer from psoriasis develop clusters of cells along the nail bed that accumulate and disrupt the linear, smooth growth of a normal nail. A physical exam is often all you need for a proper diagnosis, after which your healthcare practitioner may recommend topical, oral, or injected medications and even light therapy.
Breaking a nail is quite common, but if your nails seem to crack at the slightest touch it could mean a situation with the thyroid. The thyroid gland regulates metabolism, energy, and growth and too little thyroid hormone often leads to hair loss, brittle and thin nails, weight gain issues and nails that grow...slowly.
Thyroid disorder also manifests itself by causing your nail plate to separate from the nail bed in a noticeable way. The medical consensus is that lifted nails are thought to occur because the increase in thyroid hormone can accelerate cell turnover and separate the nail from its natural linear growth pattern.
Brittle, thin, slow-growing, or lifted, see your physician ASAP for a simple blood test that can check for thyroid disorder, which can be treated with medications.
Stripes on nails are only a good thing if they are painted on. Horizontal white lines that span the entire nail are paired and appear on more than one nail are called "Muehrcke’s lines." These could be an indication of kidney disease, liver abnormalities or a shortage of protein and other nutrients.
Shorter horizontal white marks or streaks; however, are likely just the result of trauma to the base of your nail. They can take from weeks to several months to clear up, but will usually disappear on their own.
A blue face is a clear indication that someone’s lacking airflow and blue colored (not painted) nails mean the same thing. The body is not getting enough oxygen to the fingertips. This could be caused by respiratory disease or a vascular problem called "Raynaud’s Disease," which is a rare disorder of the blood vessels. Some people have slower blood circulation, especially when exposed to cold temperatures. Have a qualified healthcare practitioner check the blood and oxygenation levels if the nails are persistently blue.
All the best,