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Fingernail Signs of Health

By Michael Bartlett ; Updated July 18, 2017

Our fingernails' primary function is to protect our fingers. However, the fingernails are also an important indicator of current health; changes in fingernails may reveal previously undetected medical conditions. The color, shape and texture of our fingernails alert us to conditions like malnutrition, diabetes, iron deficiency, and diseases of the liver, heart, liver or lungs. People experiencing changes in fingernail color should see a doctor to rule out disease, infection or illness.

Shape of Fingernails

Certain conditions cause fingernails to grow in abnormal shapes. People experiencing anemia, which is iron deficiency, may have thin fingernails with raised ridges and are curved inward. Clubbing, or the thickening of the tissue underneath fingernails, causes the nails to grow in a spoon-like shape. Typically, clubbing is associated with a reduction of oxygen in the blood, which is commonly related to heart and lung diseases.

Texture of Fingernails

Many diseases cause textural changes to the fingernails. When affected by illness, normally healthy nails can become brittle, split, pitted and ridged. Diseases associated with these changes include psoriasis, thyroid disease, liver disease and cancer. It is common for people to develop vertical ridges in their fingernails. These vertical ridges are harmless and become more pronounced with age.

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Color of Fingernails

The American Academy of Dermatology reports that many serious health conditions and diseases can be detected by a change in the color of the fingernails. The most common conditions revealed by nail color include liver disease, white nails; kidney disease, half pink and half white nails; heart conditions, red nail bed; and diabetes, yellowish nails. While color changes of fingernails have been associated with serious diseases, it is possible to have color changes without serious health implications. If you have changes in fingernail color, consult your doctor to rule out disease, infection or illness.

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