What your fingernails reveal about your health

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Have you ever looked at your nails and felt like they weren’t as bright and vibrant as they could be? Believe it or not, your fingernails are a window into the rest of your body and how it’s functioning. Healthy nails are smooth, even in color, and generally pleasing to look at. If you notice any of the following signs showing up on your hands via your nails, take note; there may be something internal happening:

Brittle nails that split

Brittle nails are by far the most common complaint of people wishing for more beautiful hands. Brittle, cracked nails occur when the nails are repeatedly subjected to wet and dry conditions. If you work in an environment where you are required to wash and dry your hands several times daily, consider wearing gloves for some of your work. Applying creams and lotions with alpha-hydroxy acid or lanolin can help to protect nails and keep them from cracking and splitting.

Lines appearing on nails

Your fingernails and toenails react similarly to your hair in that they exhibit signs of stress; after a prolonged illness or period of stress, your nails may develop side to sidelines. Doing what you can to rest, recover, and find healthy ways to manage your stress should correct the problem.

Brown discoloration that runs into the cuticle

Streaks or spots of brown that run underneath the nail and into the cuticle could be a sign of melanoma, or skin cancer If you notice this discoloration appearing, contact your dermatologist immediately for a thorough evaluation of your skin and your health.

Cysts near the nails

Small cysts growing on or near your cuticles form as a result of arthritis. Swelling of these joints causes little pockets of fluid to form. These should not be removed by you; they are best addressed by a dermatologist or hand surgeon to avoid infection and further complications.

Yellowish-red discoloration on nails

Psoriasis, a potentially painful skin condition, can also spread to nails, causing discoloration and other issues. Evidence of psoriasis can also show up on nails as uneven ridges, white patches, black lines running from tip to cuticle, and redness near the cuticle. All of these symptoms indicate that the skin around and underneath the nail is inflamed.

Beau’s lines, ridges, white streaks on nails

These symptoms, particularly those that appear suddenly, can be a sign that kidney function is decreasing. Kidney disease can quickly become a life-threatening condition if not attended to properly; if you see changes in nails that suddenly appear and they are accompanied by swelling in the legs, difficulty urinating, and pain in the lower back, see a doctor for a thorough evaluation of your condition.

While changes in nails are not always an indicator of a serious condition, it is always a good idea to get a professional assessment from your dermatologist and physician to maintain your best health. While you can’t necessarily predict what your body is trying to tell you, you can prevent adverse changes to your health by eating healthy, staying active, and staying well hydrated. Caring for yourself from head to toe should be a priority; you deserve optimal health!