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Jan 13
2011

Know your health from your finger nails in 2011

Posted by: Cathy in Womens Health

Cathy

You may notice subtle variations in the texture or color when you take a good look at your fingernails. Actually, our fingernails may have a touch of white there, a rosy tinge there, perhaps some rippling or bumps in the surface. These imperfections may not look like much to you; however, they can provide valuable clues about our overall health to the trained eye.

A dermatologist with Cleveland Clinic Florida, Tamara Lior, describes the nails: “Just like the eyes are the windows to the soul, so are the nails.” Lior says she once convinced a patient to have his lungs checked after noticing a bluish tint to his nails, a sign that he wasn’t getting enough oxygen. Sure enough, he had fluid in his lungs.

Warning signs for many other conditions, from hepatitis to heart disease, may also appear in the nails. According to Joshua Fox, who is a director of Advanced Dermatology and a spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatology, “Changes in the nails can be a sign of a local disease like a fungus infection or a sign of a systemic disease like lupus or anemia.” Sometimes, he tries to guess if a person has anemia by looking at his or her nails. Fox explains that pale, whitish nail beds may indicate a low red blood cell count consistent with anemia.

An iron deficiency can cause the nail bed to be thin and concave and have raised ridges. While most of Fox’s patients don’t come in to report nail problems, he often checks their nails anyway. “The nails offer many little clues to what’s going on inside you. Lupus patients get quirky, angular blood vessels in their nail folds. Psoriasis starts in the nails up to 10% of the time” and causes splitting and pitting of the nail bed.

In addition, heart disease can turn the nail beds red and obsessive-compulsive disorder can show up in the nails through persistent nail-biting or picking. Even some common disorders, such as thyroid disease, can cause abnormities in the nail beds, producing dry, brittle nails that crack and split easily.

The following is the examples of nail changes and their respective serious medical conditions:
1.  White nails If the nails are mostly white with darker rims, this can indicate liver problems, such as hepatitis. In this image, you can see the fingers are also jaundiced, another sign of liver trouble..
2. Pale Nails
Very pale or white nails are sometimes linked to aging. But they can also be a sign of serious illness, such as:
Anemia
Congestive heart failure
Liver disease
Malnutrition
3. Yellow Nails
One of the most common causes of yellow nails is a fungal infection. As the infection worsens, the nail bed may retract, and nails may thicken and crumble. In rare cases, yellow nails can indicate a more serious condition such as severe thyroid disease, lung disease, diabetes or psoriasis.
4. Bluish Nails
Nails with a bluish tint can mean the body isn’t getting enough oxygen. This could indicate an infection in the lungs, such as pneumonia. A slight bluish base may reveal diabetes.
5. Rippled Nails
If the nail surface is rippled or pitted, this may be an early sign of psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis. Discoloration of the nail is common; the skin under the nail can seem reddish-brown. Psoriasis is a skin condition that starts in the nails 10% of the time.
6. Cracked or Split Nails
Dry, brittle nails that frequently crack or split has been linked to thyroid disease. Cracking or splitting combined with a yellowish hue is more likely due to a fungal infection.
7. Puffy Nail Fold
If the skin around the nail appears red and puffy, this is known as inflammation of the nail fold. It may be the result of lupus or another connective tissue disorder.
8. Dark Lines Beneath the Nail
Dark lines beneath the nail should be investigated as soon as possible. They are sometimes caused by melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer.
9. Gnawed Nails
Biting your nails may be nothing more than an old habit, but in some cases it’s a sign of persistent anxiety that could benefit from treatment. Nail biting or picking has also been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you can’t stop, it’s worth discussing with your doctor.

In most of cases, a doctor cannot truly detect undiagnosed heart disease or kidney problems just by looking at nails. However, that’s not say there’s no connection between nails and disease. Christine Laine, who is American College of Physicians spokeswoman, cautions, “Nail changes are rarely the first clue of serious illness. In most instances, patients will manifest other signs or symptoms of disease before nail changes become evident. For example, it would be unusual that nail clubbing was the first thing a patient with emphysema noticed. Breathing difficulty probably would have been present already.”

In fact, Fox also agrees that there is no need to run to the nearest cardiologist if your nail beds turn red. “It could very well be from nail polish,” he says. Before assuming the worst, it’s important to look at more common explanations, such as bruises, bleeding beneath the nail, and fungal infections.

Nevertheless, many common nails disorders stem from fungal infections, which can cause the nails to crack, peel, and change color and texture. These inflections often prove difficult to treat and may require professional help, including prescription antifungal medications. It’s best to see a dermatologist if symptoms persist, especially if the nails start to dislodge from the base or you experience pain and swelling.

Changes in texture, shape, or color that aren’t due to bruise or fungal infection, including irregular growth, pitting or holes in the nails, dark brown streaks beneath the nail and cuticle, or long-standing warts on the nail bed are particular concerns. Nails can indicate skin cancer, according to Lior. “Warts around the nails have a tendency to develop into squamous cell cancer,” she says, “if patients see a dark discoloration involving the cuticle, then we worry about melanoma,” the deadliest form of skin cancer.

To strengthen your nails, avoid infections, and improve their appearance, try the following tips:

  • Keep your nails clean and dry.
  • Avoid nail-biting or picking.
  • Apply moisturizer to your nails and cuticles every day. Creams with urea, phospholipids, or lactic acid can help prevent cracking.
  • File your nails in one direction and round the tip slightly, rather than filing to a point.
  • Don't remove the cuticles or clean too deeply under your nails, which can lead to infection.
  • Don't dig out ingrown toenails. See a dermatologist if they become bothersome.
  • Avoid nail polish removers that contain acetone or formaldehyde.
  • Bring your own instruments if you get frequent manicures.
  • If you have artificial nails, check regularly for green discoloration (a sign of bacterial infection).
  • Eat a balanced diet and take vitamins containing biotin.

 

Comments (2)Add Comment
jfrancis
...
written by jfrancis, Thursday, 08:13 PM, January 13, 2011
I really like this article. never in a million years would I have guessed that your nails could be used to determine if you have an illness. I think that is really cool.
Cathy
...
written by Cathy, Monday, 02:38 PM, January 17, 2011
yes, i think each part in our body can show up something. smilies/cool.gif we'd better study what our body try to tell us since it is easier for us to find health problems. smilies/grin.gif

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