Nails: A window to your health

January 17, 2013

By John M. Knox

Your fingernails and toenails are a window into your overall health. Many health conditions, such as heart and lung disease, are very visible in the nails. Bands or lines in multiple fingernails, as well as changes in color, can also indicate illness. Nails can even tell you how long you’ve been ill since fingernails need six months to grow, and toenails a whole year.

When was the last time you looked at your nails?

Did you know:

  • Nail pitting: Small depressions on the surface of the nail; is common in people with psoriasis
  • Clubbing: Enlarged fingertips with nails curving around the fingertips may indicate lung, liver, heart or inflammatory bowel disease, or AIDS
  • Spooning: Scoop-shaped nails that curve up may be a sign of anemia
  • Banding: Indicates an interruption in the nail’s growth – may be a sign of uncontrolled diabetes, peripheral vascular disease or past illness with high fever
  • Yellowing: May be caused by respiratory disease or lymphedema (swelling of your hands or feet)
  • Nail fungus/other infections: May cause discoloration, thickening, crumbling edges or split nails
  • Vertical ridges: Fairly common – nothing to worry about