Whether you’re the type of person who religiously paints their nails as a form of self-care or someone who’s constantly picking and biting at their cuticles, we all yearn for healthy, perfectly manicured nails. We talked to nail-care experts to find out exactly what you should be doing for your nails — but first, how can you tell if your nails are unhealthy? Here’s what to look for.
Signs of Unhealthy Nails:
- Peeling or splitting nails could be dryness or the result of vitamin deficiency
- Tiny white spots usually mean you’re biting your nails or painting them too often
- Horizontal grooves could be from stress, high fevers, or jamming your finger
- Red, swollen skin around nails could be from removing or biting cuticles
- Spoon-shaped nails could be a sign of iron deficiency or anemia
NAIL SPLITTING AND NAIL CRACKING
Split nails or cracked nails can be problematic all on their own, but they can also be fingernail disorders that signal another health problem. Nail splitting and nail cracking can be due to a thyroid condition (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism) or psoriasis. If you find that your nails are brittle or split or crack easily and often, talk to your doctor about health conditions that may be responsible.
When nails grow into the skin instead of straight, an ingrown nail occurs. This painful toenail and fingernail disorder is most often caused by an injury to the nail — someone steps on your foot or you stub your toe — or from wearing shoes that don’t fit properly. But nail disorders such as a nail fungus can also trigger an ingrown nail. Ask your doctor if you can attempt to treat an ingrown nail yourself; a severely ingrown nail may require antibiotics to prevent an infection or minor surgery to remove some or all of the ingrown nail.
NAIL FUNGUS AND YELLOW NAILS
Nails that crumble and break, turn yellow, or begin to smell may signal a fungal infection also known as onychomycosis, which can affect fingers or toes. You may have picked up the toenail fungus in a public pool or locker room — any place that’s moist and warm. Have your nails inspected by a doctor who can confirm the diagnosis and recommend treatment, either with an anti-fungal cream or a course of oral antifungal medication. Frequent fungal infections may indicate a weakened immune system, a health problem like diabetes or poor circulation. To prevent toenail fungus, keep your feet clean and dry, and wear shoes or sandals in public places.
BLACK LINES IN NAILS
A black line or streak that appears in a nail is often from some type of injury. But if you don’t remember accidentally whacking your index finger or stubbing your toe on a table leg, start looking elsewhere for an explanation. These black lines could be warning signs of melanoma an extremely dangerous type of skin cancer so you should see a doctor to have them checked out.
BLOOD UNDER NAILS
You can accumulate blood under a nail when the nail has been injured — hit against something, crushed, pinched, or otherwise traumatized. The nail may look black due to the blood that pools beneath it, and the nail may eventually fall off. Sometimes, to alleviate pain and pressure, it’s necessary for a doctor to puncture a small hole in the nail to allow the blood to drain. Splinter-like streaks of red may be caused by an injury, but they could possibly indicate an infection of a heart valve, which showers the bloodstream with debris that causes the marks to appear. If you see streaks of red in your nails when you haven’t injured them, ask your doctor about it.
RIDGES ON NAILS
Ridges on nails can be more than unsightly — they may indicate a nutritional deficiency. Ridges on nails can be a sign of mal-nourishment or a specific deficiency in iron in which case you may also have depressed areas on the nail. Horizontal ridges on nails can also result from arsenic poisoning. See a doctor for evaluation if you notice ridges forming on your nails.
Your nails say a lot about your health, so don’t ignore abnormalities. While many nail changes are nothing to worry about, you won’t know this until you get checked out by a doctor.
Any changes to the nail that don’t resolve in a few weeks and don’t have an inciting cause should be evaluated by a physician, Additionally, any pain, swelling, or redness should be evaluated right away.
Author & Founder Healthfitness102