Can Your Nails Warn You About a Serious Illness?

You’ve heard the saying that the eyes are the windows to the soul. But did you know that your fingernails are considered the windows to your health? 

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It’s true. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)

Nails often reflect our general state of health. Changes in the nail, such as discoloration or thickening, can signal health problems including liver and kidney diseases, heart and lung conditions, anemia, and diabetes.”

And I’m guessing you just looked at your hand and examined your nails.

Healthy Nails

So if you’re healthy and you take care of your nails, what are the supposed to look like exactly?

  • The skin under your nail should match your skin tone
  • The lower half-moon area (called the lunula) should be slightly lighter in color
  • Your nails should grow about 3.5mm per month (this is dependent on your overall health and nutrition)

Nails and Health

If you have any of the following issues with your nails, you may want to see a dermatologist or your general practitioner. Some of these symptoms may be a sign of serious illness.

White spots – normally white spots on your nails is nothing serious. If anything, it can just be a sign of stress or injury to your finger or nail. 

Very pale nails – can indicate that you are suffering from anemia, heart failure, liver disease or malnutrition. 

White nails – not just the tip, but if the whole nail is white it may mean that you have liver problems, such as hepatitis.  

Yellow nails – this is a common symptoms that you simply occur because of your age or use of acrylic nails or polish. It can also be more serious like thyroid disease, lung disease, diabetes or psoriasis. 

Blue or gray nails – this typically means that you’re not getting enough oxygen. It’s important to see your doctor because it could mean a respiratory or heart problem.

Dry or brittle nails – these are not always a sign of something serious, it could just happen because your hands are frequently in water. It can also be caused by nail polish. BUT this can also be a sign of a fungal infection, a vitamin A, B, or C deficiency or thyroid disease. 

Inflamed or tender nail bed – if the skin around your nails is red, tender or inflamed, it can be indicative of lupus or even heart disease. 

Small holes or pits – if your nails become extremely textured to the point where there are deep holes or pits, it could mean that you have psoriasis or arthritis. 

Dark lines – this is actually very serious, if you have dark lines on your nails, it can be a symptom of melanoma. 

Clubbing – this is when your fingertips are enlarged and the nail curves downward. It can mean that you’re not getting enough oxygen, but could also indicate liver, heart or kidney disease, but also inflammatory bowel disease

Horizontal ridges – this can occur from trauma or serious illness with a high fever. But it can also be a sign of psoriasis, diabetes, circulatory disease, zinc deficiency. Other horizontal lines can from toxins.

How to Keep You & Your Nails Healthy

A healthy diet with essential nutrients is an excellent way to keep your nails healthy. Biotin is especially needed for not only metabolizing food that you eat, but also strengthening hair and nails. Here are other tips to keep your nails healthy:

  • Use gloves when washing dishes
  • Minimize use of nail polish and artificial nails
  • Keep your nails short
  • Moisturize cuticles with coconut oil
  • Don’t bite, pick or rip at cuticles or hangnails.

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Leann Forst, MBA, CHC — Family Health & Cancer Coach

Leann is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Certified Essential Oils Coach, holding a Master’s degree from Drake University and a Bachelor of Science from Upper Iowa University. Leann is accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. And she is an award winning author of 2 books How to Get Your Kids to Beg for Veggies and 100 Ways to Lose Weight”.

Born and raised as an Iowa farm girl, she moved to Texas in 1998 where she lives with her husband and 2 kids.

As a wife of a brain cancer survivor, Leann has a special interest in anti-cancer nutrition and detoxification. She works with individuals and groups, and speaks regularly at hospitals, schools and organizations to teach people how to attain optimal health by getting to the root cause of chronic and inflammatory conditions, while using healing modalities such as essential oils. Click here to get Leann’s free report, “37 Cancer Facts You Should Know…But Probably Don’t”. And take Leann’s Nutrient Deficiency Quiz here.

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.

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