Here’s How To Decipher Your Fingernail Health & Keep Your Nails Healthy

Fingernails aren’t something you normally think about when considering your overall health. You may even be surprised to learn that your fingernail health is closely related to what’s going on in your body!

Just like our hair, our nails can undergo physical changes during periods of intense stress. It’s common to notice changes in your fingernails before you get sick, after recovering from an illness, or during prolonged periods of stress.

Paying attention to your fingernail health is an important part of staying healthy. Your nails can clue you into different skin or systemic conditions that may be developing under the surface.

In this post, we’ll start by looking at 4 different things you can do to keep your nails healthy. Then we’ll take a look at 7 different conditions that can develop in your nails and the symptoms to look out for!

Investing In Your Fingernail Health

Take periodic breaks from nail polish

Surprisingly, painting your nails can take a toll on your body if you aren’t taking breaks. Leaving nail polish on for extended periods invites all types of problems, including bacteria growth. Nail polish can cause the top few layers of your nail to dry out, which creates the perfect environment for bacteria, yeast, and mold to develop.

Taking a break from nail polish gives your nails time to breathe. Even using nail polish remover on a regular basis will dry out your nails, which can lead to cosmetic and health problems.

People that wear nail polish for long periods are also more susceptible to developing keratin granulation. Dry nails and keratin granulation make it easier to pick up a nail infection.

Moisturize your cuticles

Your cuticles act as a protective barrier for your nails. Without your cuticles, your nail bed is open to infection.

It’s a good idea to go out of your way to keep your cuticles moisturized. Vitamin E oil is excellent for moisturizing and healing damaged cuticles.

When getting a pedicure, it’s not a bad idea to pass on the cuticle trimming. Taking this precaution and keeping your cuticles intact reduces your risk of infection. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, and pain.

pale nailes


Keep your nails trimmed

Shorter nails are less likely to get caught, pulled, chipped, or broken. Anyone who’s suffered the pain of a broken nail knows it’s not fun.

Cut your nails straight across. This allows the nail to grow back evenly and is easier to cut the next time.


Skip the acrylic nails

The chemicals used in acrylic may be more harmful than we think. Acrylic and similar types of nails are known to cause skin irritation and inflammation in some people.

Of course, getting acrylic nails once in a while won’t hurt. However, it’s important to remember that it’s not natural to expose your nails to chemicals all the time. Moderation is key.

Different marks, colors, & shapes on your nails can indicate changes in your health

Brown fingernails, white spots or nail clubbing, can all be warning signs.

If you notice any of the following signs in your nails, you should notify your doctor as soon as possible! 

White Bands (Muehrecke’s Nails)

This change in your fingernail health can indicate an underlying medical disorder or condition. These lines in your fingers happen in the vascular nail bed, under the plate.

Because of the location of these bands/lines, they don’t move with nail growth. When you put pressure on your nail, you can see these lines disappear.

Sudden drops of protein in your diet can cause Muehrecke’s nails to develop. Factors that cause your nails to change like this range from issues with your kidneys, liver disease, and chemotherapy.

Nail Clubbing

Nail clubbing is when your nails grow and curve at a downward angle. Your nails slowly begin to club over time, in four distinct stages.

First, your fingers begin to lose the normal angle that exists between your nail bed and the fold.

Second, the convexity of the nail fold starts to increase.

Next, the end of your finger (distal) begins to thicken and resemble a drumstick.

The last stage of nail clubbing is when your nails are shiny with distinct lines.

Lung cancer, tuberculosis, lung disease, and mesothelioma are all diseases that nail clubbing can indicate. If you smoke regularly and you notice your nails starting to club, see a doctor.

Nail clubbing is also closely linked with many types of heart disease, with cyanotic heart disease being the most common cause. Crohn’s disease, cirrhosis, and malabsorption are also known causes.

If you notice your nails starting to club, see your doctor right away. Your doctor will give you a full examination that focuses on your heart, lungs, and gastrointestinal system.

Nail clubbing is an extreme example that shows how your fingernail health relates to the rest of your body.

vertical lines on nails

Spoon-Shaped Nails (Koilonychia)

Koilonychia nails are abnormally thin and flat and often curve at a severe enough angle to hold liquid in your nails.

Spoon-shaped nails have connections to iron levels in your body. Too much iron (hemochromatosis) causes this condition. Too little iron (iron deficiency) can also cause spoon-shaped nails due to a lower red blood cell count.

In addition, Raynaud’s disease is known to affect the blood supply to your fingers and toes and is another cause of nail spooning.

White Pale Nails (Terry’s Nails)

Terry’s nails are when your nails are intensely white, and the root (lunula) of your nails is no longer visible.

Old age and severe health conditions usually cause Terry’s nails to develop.

Around 80% of patients with liver disease develop Terry’s nails. Patients with kidney failure, congestive heart failure, malnutrition, and hyperthyroidism are also known to suffer from Terry’s Nails.

If you recognize these changes in your nails early, you can get a jump on any condition that may be developing.

Horizontal Indentations (Beau’s Nails)

Beau’s nails are when indentations run from side to side across your finger or toenails. This condition is named after a French physician, Joseph Honoré Simon Beau, who discovered it in 1846.

Beau’s nails are often confused with Muehrecke’s nails. The indentations caused by Beau’s nails are caused by reduced cell division in your nail matrix.

Infections, injuries, hypocalcemia, coronary occlusion, and malnutrition are some factors that can slow cell division in your body.

What Do White Dots On Your Nails Mean?

White dots on your nails are often harmless and can be a sign of leukonychia. Leukonychia is a harmless condition where white lines or dots appear on your nails.

The most common cause of leukonychia is an injury to the nail bed. Accidentally pinching or striking your nail can cause these dots to develop. As mentioned earlier, getting frequent manicures and pedicures can also damage the nail bed, which can cause leukonychia to develop. Gel and acrylic nails are also damaging.

Occasionally, an allergic reaction can cause white dots on your nails to develop. Using new nail polish, gloss, or hardener can expose you to chemicals that don’t agree with your body and cause the white dots to develop.

A less common cause of white dots on the nail is a fungus. Onychomycosis is a relatively common type of fungus that first develops on the toenails. White dots or lines are often the first symptoms people notice.

Zinc and calcium deficiency can also cause white dots or lines to appear on your nails.

Signs Of Psoriasis In The Nails

Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes an overgrowth of skin cells which results in painful, itchy patches. Surprisingly, sometimes your nails can show signs of your body coming down with psoriasis.

Pits and indents on the part of your nail that covers your fingertips may be a sign of psoriasis. Beau’s nails and black lines are also potential signs of psoriasis. Redness near the cuticle from congested capillaries is also another common sign.

If you notice these symptoms in your nails, get a professional opinion from your doctor as soon as possible.

Wrap Up

All in all, it’s important to pay attention to changes in your nails. This is one way our body talks to us; we just need to know how to listen.

If you regularly paint your nails and get manicures, then it’s easy for you to notice when something is wrong. Share this article with the people in your life who may not be paying attention to their fingernail health!

Posted by DME Library

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8 thoughts on “Here’s How To Decipher Your Fingernail Health & Keep Your Nails Healthy”

  1. Yes it’s true. All my fingernails have vertical ridges indicating some deficiencies. How to I treat it?

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