Your nails are a distinctive feature of your body that you may enjoy caring for and decorating with nail polish, false nails, or art. However, it is important to pay attention to their appearance as they can provide insight into your overall health. Previously resembling claws, nails have evolved into the hard nail plate that aids in gripping and protects underlying structures. This plate grows out of the nail matrix, which is hidden by the skin and cuticle and includes the nail bed and folds on either side.
According to the Mayo Clinic, nails are typically intended to be firm, flawless, and evenly colored. Any unusual alterations in the nails may result from improper nail care or indicate a medical problem. Such indications could be subtle, like changes in the nails’ robustness, texture, or growth habits. However, they might also be noticeable, such as unusual coloring, bleeding, soreness, inflammation, or detachment. As a result, it’s crucial not to disregard any unusual indicators but rather to consult your dermatologist.
Here’s why your nails are soft, brittle, or flaky
It can be quite bothersome when your nails are brittle and keep breaking apart, regardless of whether they are dry and breakable or floppy and flexible. Removing fake nails can temporarily weaken real nails. Harsh chemicals present in nail polish products, nail polish removers, and nail treatments could also cause your nails to become weak from time to time. With no protection, typical household items such as dishwashing soaps, detergents, and cleaning fluids can also affect your nails’ strength. Moistness from wetting your nails frequently could result in weak and soft nails. According to Healthline, not moisturizing your nails after exposure to water could also cause weak nails, particularly during dry weather conditions.
If you find that your fingernails and toenails are not strong, it could mean that you have a health condition. This is particularly true if your nails are weak. Healthline explains that hypothyroidism and Reynaud’s syndrome are two possible conditions that can cause weak nails. Hypothyroidism may cause hair loss, depression, weight gain, and constipation. Reynaud’s syndrome is brought about by circulation problems. Furthermore, not consuming enough B vitamins, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, biotin, and iron in your diet can also cause weak nails.
What unusual nail colors mean
Nails are typically expected to have a pinkish or flesh-colored hue, but any abnormal changes in color such as white, yellow, blue, green, brown, purple, red or gray, in patches, spots, lines or spreading across the nail, could indicate an underlying health condition. Depending on the color change, it could be related to circulatory issues, cancer, lung, kidney, heart, or liver problems, bacterial or fungal infections, allergies, or deficiencies in nutrients. It is recommended to seek medical attention to have your nails examined and to address any potential underlying conditions. (paraphrased from Disabled World)
Don’t overreact if you notice some odd colors on your nails since there could be various explanations for them. Brown streaks or lines on dark-skinned people’s nails, for instance, known as melanonychia, are common and seldom a cause for concern except when they reach the skin fold, which could indicate melanoma. White spots may result from damage or trauma to the nail, while bleeding could lead to purple or red spots caused by blood clots, but those should vanish after the nail has recovered and grown out.
What causes a swollen nail fold?
Paronychia is a condition where the nail fold becomes swollen due to inflammation, mostly caused by bacterial infections. The bacteria can enter through various means like hangnails, injured or irritated skin, ingrown nails, or nail trauma from biting, accidents, or excessive grooming. Furthermore, certain medications like oral retinoids, antibiotics, cancer, or HIV medications can also lead to nail inflammation. An inflamed nail fold is not just painful and red-hot, but also tends to produce pus that may accumulate to form an abscess. Moreover, it can cause substantial damage to the nails such as separation from the bed, falling off, or growing out deformed, discolored, or flaky nails. These damages linger despite healing of the inflammation.
There are individuals who have a vivid recollection of a single instance when they had a swollen nail fold, while others may encounter this condition multiple times for extended periods, even affecting more than one nail. This is referred to as chronic paronychia, and while its origin is not fully comprehended, it is more prevalent among people with hand dermatitis or those whose hands are frequently cold and damp. Thus, examples of individuals who may be susceptible include bartenders, fishermen, dairy farmers, cleaners, and those with insufficient circulation. (According to DermNet).
What these bad nail habits could indicate
Numerous negative nail habits exist, however, biting or picking which causes harm to the nails is especially troublesome. Biting or picking one’s nails on occasion is typically not an issue and common among young people who eventually grow out of it. Nonetheless, Healthline warns that if you feel shame and are unable to cease the habit, even when causing injury, it may be classified as a body-focused repetitive behavior. Such behaviors are automatic actions that result in injury, and may include teeth grinding, biting the inside of the cheek, pulling hair, or picking skin.
According to Healthline, the habit of biting or picking nails may be a result of an anxiety disorder, which is often accompanied by other symptoms such as phobias, difficulty sleeping, muscle tension, irritability, trouble focusing, and constant fatigue. Such negative nail behaviors and other body-related repetitive habits may also indicate other disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, separation anxiety, or Tourette’s syndrome.
What makes the nail separate from the nail bed?
Typically, nails are connected to the nail bed, excluding the areas that grow over the tips of the fingers and toes. However, there is a possibility that nails may detach from the nail bed, which is medically known as onycholysis or nail separation. According to Cleveland Clinic, this condition can occur in anybody but is more frequent in women, adults, and individuals with nail bed complications. A disconnected nail often leads to bleeding, discoloration, or harm.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, nail separation may occur due to various reasons such as hitting the nails too hard, wearing tight shoes, frequent rough manicure or pedicure sessions, or prolonged nail soaking in water. Those who have nail infections or skin conditions like hand dermatitis, psoriasis, or lichen planus, or take certain medications may also have a risk of nail separation. It could also be a symptom of some medical conditions like diabetes, pregnancy, or light sensitivity, while in some cases, the exact cause might not be clear. In addition to its negative appearance, separate nails could also leave the finger exposed to new infections as per DermNet.
What it means when ridges appear on your nails
While the nails may not have an entirely smooth texture, it’s unusual for them to acquire noticeable ridges. Such ridges can either be horizontal, called Beau’s lines, or longitudinal, called onychorrhexis. While the presence of longitudinal ridges isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm, it could be a result of factors such as aging or nutrient deficiencies, eczema, anemia, amyloidosis, hypothyroidism, trauma, or exposure to harsh chemicals, according to Healthline.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, Beau’s lines may appear following serious ailments such as Covid19, strep infections, pneumonia, mumps, or a heart attack. During severe illness, the body prioritizes survival, resulting in nail growth interruption as nail formation is considered a lower priority. Additionally, nail matrix trauma may also cause Beau’s lines. These lines usually emerge a few weeks after the incident, once the affected nail has had time to grow. Long-term illnesses that hinder blood supply to the nail matrix or skin ailments that harm this matrix may result in recurring Beau’s lines.
You need to see your doctor if your nails bend upwards or downwards
Nail spooning or koilonychia refers to upward bending of nails as they grow out. Initially, the nails may grow out flat but later develop a depression, taking on a spoon-like shape that’s deep enough to even hold water. Although some babies are born with this condition, it usually indicates an underlying illness, with iron deficiency anemia being the most common cause in adults. Other causes include heart problems, hypothyroidism, lupus, nail trauma, genetic and skin conditions, among others. Nail spooning may also result from environmental factors like living in high altitudes or using petroleum-based products.
The condition in which nails curve downward at the fingertips is called clubbed nails. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this results in nails that appear wide, round, and bulgy, resembling an inverted spoon. People with clubbed nails may experience warmth, softness, and springiness. Additionally, the skin around the nails may appear red and swollen. Nail clubbing is typically linked to lung diseases, such as lung cancer. However, it may also indicate other health issues such as heart, thyroid, liver, or digestive diseases. While some individuals may develop clubbed nails for unknown reasons, it is often hereditary. While clubbed nails do not generally cause discomfort, it is important to treat the underlying issue so that nails can grow normally in the future.
What is yellow nail syndrome?
According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, Yellow nail syndrome is a highly infrequent ailment that causes the fingernails or toenails to turn yellow, thicken, and curve. Although still transparent and smooth, the nails stop growing, lose the cuticle, become loose, detach from the nail bed, and may even drop off. This condition makes the nails more susceptible to infection. It generally affects older adults and is often related to respiratory issues and swelling in various parts of the body.
According to WebMD, the reason behind the appearance of nails like that is the gathering of lymph, which is a liquid containing immune cells, beneath them. Normally, lymph circulates throughout the body, but any condition that hinders its flow such as lymphedema can cause yellow nail syndrome. This syndrome is linked with different health issues like breast and lung cancers, immunodeficiency syndromes, autoimmune diseases, genetic alterations, and titanium poisoning. To handle this condition, the underlying diseases and symptoms of yellow nail syndrome and lymph accumulation are treated.
Nail pitting is a classic sign of nail psoriasis
According to Healthline, when your fingernails or toenails have deep or shallow holes, that is called nail pitting. Although it can be caused by other factors, it is commonly associated with psoriasis, a skin condition that causes the buildup of excess skin cells. Nail psoriasis affects around 50% of individuals with psoriasis, particularly those who develop psoriatic arthritis. It can also affect people who do not exhibit any other psoriasis symptoms. Thickening, discoloration, deformation, and peeling of the nail are some of the additional symptoms that indicate nail psoriasis.
The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance stresses the significance of maintaining nail cleanliness for people with nail psoriasis. This involves cutting the nails, using moisturizing agents on the cuticles, shielding the nails from additional harm, and soaking the nails in warm water to clean them or before polishing. Nail psoriasis can be cured using steroid or vitamin D creams, medication, and methods like nail extraction or steroid injections. It will take several months to see any progress, and more than a year for complete healing. Therefore, it is suggested that you remain patient during the treatment process.
This nail disorder makes the nail’s look like a ram’s horn
The medical term for this disorder is onychogryphosis, but it is colloquially referred to as ram’s horn nails due to the affected nail (usually the big toenail) becoming elongated, thickened, and curled, resembling the shape of a ram’s horn. These nails become extremely thick, making it difficult to trim them without professional assistance and requiring medical attention. Additional symptoms include nail infections, discoloration, ingrown nails, pain, and difficulty performing certain activities.
According to News Medical, neglecting basic nail care or experiencing foot trauma may lead to the development of this condition. This risk is higher for individuals who wear tight shoes, are homeless, have dementia, or are older and may forget nail care. Healthline also states that ram’s horn nails could be indicative of certain diseases like psoriasis, ichthyosis, peripheral vascular disease, or tuberous sclerosis complex. Additionally, individuals with previous or current nail fungal infections are also at risk of developing this condition.
Got thick toenails? Here’s what could cause it
Generally, toenails tend to become thicker as one ages and to some extent, this also applies to fingernails. However, an abnormally thickened toenail may indicate the presence of a fungal infection, as reported by Medical News Today. Thick toenails could also occur due to recurrent injuries to the nails, and may give an indication of underlying conditions such as psoriasis, yellow nail syndrome, or chronic paronychia (swollen nail fold).
It is important to have thick toenails checked and treated, especially if they are caused by a fungal infection. Neglecting the infection can cause the nails to become even thicker, resulting in discomfort while wearing covered shoes or walking. Healthline emphasizes seeking treatment as there may be other symptoms present, such as dirt buildup, discoloration, foul smell, nail breakage, nail separation, and dry or whitish appearance of affected nails.
What could make your nails grow slowly?
Having trouble with your nails not growing can be irritating. Whether you’re trying to overcome a nail condition or simply desiring longer nails, the slow growth rate can make it seem like it’s taking forever. However, it’s important not to become overly worried about it. According to Healthline, nails grow at a sluggish pace, with fingernails growing only 3.47 millimeters per month and toenails just 1.67 millimeters per month. This means that it can take up to six months for fingernails to regrow fully and eighteen months for toenails. Additionally, nail growth slows down with age.
Fustany suggests that there are a few habits that could decelerate the growth of your nails, such as gnawing on them, not wearing gloves while washing dishes, imbalanced diet, failing to moisturize your cuticles, excessively filing or getting them manicured. Also, some nail products like low-quality polishes or those containing acetone might hinder their growth. According to Healthline, you can facilitate growth by trimming and cleansing your nails, trying a biotin supplement or utilizing a nail hardener. However, they also caution that overuse of hardeners could harm your nails eventually.
Though small, the half moon on your nail can reveal lots about your health
The area at the base of your nails, known as the lunula or the white, half-moon-shaped part, is often overlooked but can provide useful information about your health. It is a component of your nail matrix and is not covered by your skin, so it is visible for many but may be hidden for some due to skin color or other factors. A missing lunula may indicate malnutrition, anemia, or depression, but it could also be obscured by skin or cuticles. Healthline reports that an unusually large lunula may be linked to heart problems or low blood pressure, although the cause is not yet clearly understood.
The color of the lunula may be affected by various health conditions or an excess of particular chemicals. For instance, heart failure can cause redness, chronic kidney failure may result in a brown hue, uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a light blue color, and Wilson’s disease can cause blue tinted lunulae. Additionally, exposure to high levels of silver can cause a blue-gray color, excessive consumption of fluoride can result in brown or black lunulae, and prolonged use of tetracycline medications can turn them yellow.