We love to get a manicure and paint our nails, but what do our nails really tell us? The condition of your nails can actually tell you a lot about your health. In this article, you will find 8 common fingernail signs that tell you about your health along with tips to improve your nail health for the future.
If your nails are….
Brittle nails are fairly common. They are rough and may crack easily. However, this is not a problem that you want to have. “Brittle nails are usually caused by repeated wetting and drying of your fingernails, so you should use gloves when getting your hands wet,” Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., says.
Fix: Apply lotion that contains alpha-hydroxy acids or lanolin. If this does not work, please see a doctor. Dr. Sara Norris, a naturopathic doctor based in Los Angeles states that hypothyroidism can also cause weak, brittle nails, such as an iron deficiency
Soft or weak
Do your nails break easily or bend before snapping? This may mean that you have soft or weak nails. This is usually caused by overexposure to harmful chemicals (such as those in detergent or nail polish remover).
Fix: Go au natural for a little bit and let your nails breathe! While you are at it, eat more foods that contain B vitamins, calcium, iron, or fatty acids.
Peeling can be caused by a variety of reasons but happens mostly when you use your nail as a tool or put too much pressure on it. Nails can also peel if you soak your hands for too long in sudsy water, according to Dr. Wilson.
If your toenails are peeling as well, the problem is internal. If it isn’t, it’s external.
Fix: For an internal issue, eat more foods with iron. If the issue is external, apply lotion and wear protective gloves when you wash dishes.
If you see horizontal ridges on your fingernails, call a doctor. If you see vertical ridges, this should be fine as they tend to appear as we age.
Fix: See a doctor for both horizontal or vertical ridges on your fingernails. They will be able to provide you with more information since vertical ridges might be a sign of iron deficiency anemia. Horizontal ridges may be indicative of kidney disease.
If your nails are….
If your nails are yellow, don’t freak out! This is actually pretty common and can be caused by a reaction to a product that got onto your fingernails (think nail polish).
Fix: Time will heal this one. But there are other alternative natural treatments that you can do to help the process. Use tea tree oil or vitamin E to handle infections, if any appear. If the color does not disappear within a short amount of time, see a doctor.
If you see black lines on your fingernails, this may mean that you may have damaged it somehow.
Fix: The color is due to the trauma to the blood vessel and should disappear as your nail grows and heals according to Dr. Wilson.
Notice white spots on your fingernails? Dr. Norris explains that these lines can indicate a zinc deficiency. “Usually 30 milligrams per day of zinc for three months will alleviate it.” Other possible causes include an allergic reaction, a fungal infection, injury to your nail.
Fix: Try adding more zinc to your diet. If you believe it is an allergic reaction or a fungal infection, talk to your doctor.
This is totally okay. Not everyone has them. But Wilson notes that if they seem to have disappeared it could be due to malnutrition, depression or anemia. She says you should call a doctor if the half-moons start turning red and if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- weight loss or gain
- unusual cravings
Otherwise known as onychomycosis, nail fungus is an incredibly common (but also frustrating) condition that can develop on your nails. Although nail fungus is most common for older adults, it can occur at any age. It can usually be spotted on the toenails, known as athlete’s foot, but it can occur on the hands as well. The fungus generally begins as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your fingernail or toenail; as the infection continues to spread, nail fungus may cause your nail to discolor, thicken and crumble at the edge.
Some symptoms of this condition include:
- Thickened nails
- Whitish to yellow-brown discoloration on the nail
- Brittle, crumbly or ragged nails
- Nails distorted in shape
- A dark color, caused by debris building up under your nail
- Foul odor
These fungal infections can be caused by a number of fungal organisms, the most common being dermatophyte. Yeast and mold can also contribute to the growth of nail fungus.
Nail Care: How to Keep Your Nails Healthy
You keep your nails healthy by keeping yourself healthy! Norris suggests eating a variety of whole foods to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs. However, if you want to take a multivitamin pill, Norris advises staying away from One-A-Day type vitamines as our body does not do well with breaking those types of products.