What your fingernails say about your health

What your fingernails say about your health

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Fingernails can reveal so much about your health and lifestyle. Nails are made from tough keratin protein, taking many different shapes.
Normal healthy fingernails curve gently, both from side to side and from finger to nail front edge.

However if your nails curve down, over the tips, with a blunt end, together with swollen fingers, it could be a sign of Lung or Heart disease.

If your nails lose their gentle curvature and become flat it could be caused by iron or protein deficiency, it may also occur in Psoriasis and Diabetes.

Pitting as in the surface of a sewing thimble maybe Psoriasis and Alopecia areata. Nails can be vital indicators for your health, showing your diet, present and past illnesses, emotional state, infections, age and injury.

The most common causes of complaints are :

  1. Splitting, brittle and fragile nails, these can be indications of nutritional deficiency, such as vitamin C, vitamin B, iron, zinc and poor circulation. Loss of water content caused by hands constantly being in detergent filled water, then dried. Always wear rubber gloves. Cold temperatures and Psoriasis is also a cause of the above complaint.
  2. Thin nails indicates a diet lacking in sulphur containing amino acids.
  3. Whitlows (Paronychia) are a painful puss-producing infection of the tissues around the nails. Its discomfort certainly makes you take immediate steps to cure it. By soaking it in hot water 2 to 3 times a day for one hour each time and keep re-heating the water by adding more hot water, up to 38C/98F. This treatment can be a quick cure. If not, it will have to be lanced by a doctor to drain off the puss.
  4. Hangnail is ragged skin along side a nail. Dry cracked skin from cold weather will encourage hangnail, as will frequently having your hands in water; Picking at the skin and biting your nails.

Note. Hangnail is not trivial, as any exposed skin acts as a breeding ground for germs and your hands are particularly susceptible to exposure, causing infections that can turn to sore, painful and swollen finger ends. The bacterial infection is sometimes fungus. The same type of germ that causes athletes foot.

The color of the nails tell there own story:

  • Healthy nails look pink because of the blood behind it.
  • Creamy pale ridged nails may indicate iron deficiency anaemia.
  • Yellow nails may indicate fungal nail infection.
  • Brown nails may indicate chronic renal failure.
  • Bluish nails may indicate circulatory, heart and lung problems.
  • White nails may indicate liver disease.
  • White marks are caused by everyday knocks, bangs or bumps.
  • Black streaks in the nail are a cause for you to see your doctor. As is any other unexplained changes in your nails.
  • When nails get a fungal infection their color changes from a healthy pink to a whitish cream color. They thicken as the fungus works it’s way between the keratin layers, become crumbly and may start to leave the nail ‘bed’. Getting treatment for this is important.


  1. Do not share towels or try on shoes barefooted, because fungal spores can live for over two years.
  2. Do not over zealously manicure your cuticles, it can cause bacterial and fungal infections. It is best to leave your cuticles well alone; they are there for a reason.
  3. Manicuring can cause nail splitting and reduce the nail strength.
  4. Buff your nails very gently.
  5. Do not pull or tear your nails to avoid hangnail.
  6. Do not cut nails down the side, the nail edge can re-grow into the skin, called in-growing nails. This is red, painful and likely to become infected.
  7. Do not ignore this problem get treatment, the quicker the better.
  8. Certain nail products can dry out the natural oils that hold the keratin layers together, causing flaking and dryness.
  9. Cut your fingernails really short to keep from damaging your skin, if you’re in the habit of scratching any itchy areas.
  10. Put cotton-wool in the finger-ends of your gardening gloves, to stop your fingernails from chipping or breaking, whilst working.

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