Nails as a mirror of our health

Brittle, yellow and streaked nails are signs that can reveal diseases ranging from anemia to psoriasis . As such, nails can be used as a complement to a diagnosis for the physician or health-conscious person. It’s not for nothing that many grandmothers have the habit of observing the condition of their grandchildren’s nails.

Here’s an overview of the condition nails can look like and the possible underlying conditions:

State of the nailMeaning (possible illness)
Nails with increased white portion, forming large half-moonsLiver problems like hepatitis . It can also be a case of kidney disease.
Dull, concave or spoon-shaped nailsAnemia . An iron deficiency is often associated with “spoon-shaped” nails, a condition known as  Koilonychia .
Nails that are red or similar in color to red, especially a red line like the one shown in the photo below.Heart problems, if the nail is half white and half red, it could also be a kidney disease.
brittle nailsHypothyroidism , anemia , psoriasis, iron, vitamin and calcium or zinc deficiency.
Nails with vertical ridgesThe age. These are effects of age.
Nails that feature black lines on themMelanoma , a type of cancer (be careful, this is very dangerous, so see a doctor immediately), mycoses
Nails with “bent” or rounded edgesIt could be lung disease. In most cases it is a sign of lung cancer. Hyperthyroidism or liver problems are other possible causes.
Attention, you should always consult a doctor if your nails are like this. In English we speak of  clubbing  (more information  here ).
Nails with horizontal white linesIt could be a protein or zinc deficiency. In some cases, these lines can also be a sign of liver or kidney disorders.
Nails with small holes in the surface or dimplesPsoriasis or polyarthritis (rare: heart or lung disease)
Nails with a bluish or greenish colorIt could be a bacterial infection caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. It may also be indicative of cardiovascular disease, lupus or lung disease.
yellowed nailsLung problems like emphysema, or diabetes. It can also be a mycosis or liver problems.

The state of the nails should never be the only means of diagnosis

We emphasize that the doctor does not rely only on the appearance of the nails to establish a diagnosis. Usually other signs denounce a disease first. Lung problems, for example, are usually characterized by a “whistling sound” when breathing, and therefore, the appearance of fingernails intervenes as a later manifestation. However, many doctors use this appearance to complete their diagnosis or to guide their research, with the aim of saving a little time and having a general first impression. It is also possible that a person suffers from heart disorders and does not have red fingernails (see table above) as well as the opposite, that he has red fingernails but does not have heart disorders. The state of the nails should not be used as the only diagnosis, but simply as a simple complement of information.

nail fungus

The table above provides precious information on the possible general and underlying diseases that may be manifesting, however, one should not disregard a nail infection that does not reflect a generalized disease but is local: nail mycosis. A hallmark sign of this infection is a change in nail color or texture. In this case, it is advisable to see a general practitioner or a dermatologist. See: nail mycoses


The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) encourages people to examine not only their skin but also their nails for signs of cancer. Melanoma can develop under and around fingernails and toenails. It usually appears on the thumb and big toe of the dominant hand and foot, according to the AAD. Signs of melanoma in and around the nail are: a brown or black streak under the nail, a lump or lump under the nail, darker skin around the nail, a nail that lifts and pulls away from the nail bed, or a slit in the middle of the nail

Interest in nail care

In addition to aesthetics, having beautiful, clean and well-groomed nails allows the doctor and you to better diagnose any underlying diseases, as we saw above.

Here are some tips to keep your nails in the best possible condition:

– don’t bite your nails

– wash your nails regularly

– cut your nails regularly

– apply cream if the skin around the nails is dry

– try to have a healthy diet. You can also take biotin-based food supplements (which help build keratin, the main component of nails and hair).

Jeanne Kenney
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I’m a stylist trainer, a content creator, and an entrepreneur passion. Virgo sign and Pisces ascendant, I move easily between my dreams, the crazy world I want, and my feet on the ground to carry out my projects.

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