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You may not know how to determine if you have healthy or unhealthy nails. It is one health issue that people usually ignore.
What are the nails?
A nail is a horn-like covering on the upper surface of the tips of the fingers and toes. Fingernails and toenails are made of a type of protein called keratin, which also forms your hair and skin. The nail protects the tissue called the matrix. The matrix produces cells that become the nail plate. As new nail plate cells are made, they push older nail plate cells forward and take the nail form.
Healthy nails may appear smooth and consistent in color. As you age, nail abnormalities may occur. Some abnormalities are not severe and can be easily treated. In some cases, certain medical conditions can also change your fingernails’ appearance that may need medical attention and treatment.
Different Signs of Unhealthy Nails
These are the signs that may show you have unhealthy nails.
1. Brittle nails
Brittle nails are nails that crack, chip, split, peel or break. These are signs of too little moisture or excessive use of chemicals like nail polish or household cleaners. It can also be a sign of malnutrition and aging.
2. White spots on nails
Irregular white spots on nails are called leukonychia. They occur due to minor damage to the nail plate or matrix. It is a common issue and is harmless. White spots on nails can also be associated with systemic diseases like heart disease or kidney failure. It can be a sign, but very rare.
3. Ridges on nails
Vertical ridges in the fingernails are commonly developing in older adults and often typical signs of aging. Skin conditions, such as dryness or eczema, may also cause ridges. Ridges in your fingernails can also signify that your body has a deficiency in protein, calcium, zinc, or vitamin A.
On the other hand, Beau’s lines are horizontal ridges in the nail that are often symptoms of a serious condition. When Beau’s lines develop on all your nails, it could be a symptom of thyroid disease, diabetes, mumps, and acute kidney disease.
Nail discoloration can be a result of infections and conditions of the skin. But most common discolored nails are a result of fungal infection.
Yellow nails can be a sign of a fungal infection or the skin condition psoriasis. If your yellow nails are thickened, curved, or detached from the nail bed, these are signs of yellow nail syndrome. It occurs with certain types of cancers, autoimmune diseases, and immunodeficiencies.
Pale nails can be a sign of serious illness, such as anemia, liver disease, and congestive heart failure.
Blue nails are signs of cyanosis, a bluish discoloration of the skin due to poor circulation or inadequate oxygenation of the blood. It could indicate a lung problem, such as emphysema. Some heart problems are also associated with bluish nails.
Black or brown nails can be a sign of melanoma, a severe form of skin cancer. While nail melanomas are uncommon, they can be deadly if not diagnosed and treated early.
5. Spoon-shaped nails
Koilonychia is characterized by spoon-shaped fingernails, with raised ridges, and also known as spooning. Spooning is a sign of cardiovascular disease, lupus, hypothyroidism, iron deficiency anemia, and Raynaud’s disease, a condition that limits your blood circulation.
6. Infection around nails
Paronychia is the most common infection of the skin around a fingernail or toenail and caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. The infected area can become swollen, red, and painful. Most of the time, paronychia is not serious and can be treated at home. In rare cases, the infection can spread to the rest of the fingers or toes and lead to a deeper disease that may need a doctor’s help.
7. Nails separating from the skin
Onycholysis is the medical term for when your nail separates from the skin underneath it. This condition may last for several months because the nail won’t reattach to its nail bed. Injury to the nail can cause onycholysis. Other causes can be systemic medication or trauma. Onycholysis can also be a symptom of psoriasis.
How to avoid unhealthy nails?
- Do not bite your nails.
- Keep your nails dry and clean.
- Use a moisturizer or cream on your hands and feet to keep your skin hydrated.
- Trim your nails regularly.
- Avoid wearing tight shoes.
- See a doctor if you find your nail condition alarming.