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Your fingernails can be a greater indication of your overall health than you may think. Although they serve a cosmetic function for most, nails are a living part of your body and if you're not healthy, your nails won't be either. Changes in the fingernails can indicate everything from psoriasis to heart disease and several nail conditions can indicate malnutrition or certain nutrient deficiencies.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Check for small depressions across your fingernails. These are called Beau's lines, and they can be a symptom of malnutrition. They can also occur after an illness or an injury to your nail and can be a symptom of uncontrolled diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health 1.
- Check for small depressions across your fingernails.
- They can also occur after an illness or an injury to your nail and can be a symptom of uncontrolled diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health 1.
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Iron deficiency anemia also manifests itself in the nails via a condition called koilonychia, or spoon nails. Koilonychia is an abnormal fingernail shape marked by thin nails with an inward curve and raised ridges, according to the NIH. If you experience koilonychia, increase your iron intake.
If your nails look mostly opaque but have a dark band at the tips, you may have a condition called Terry's nails. This nail condition can be a sign of malnutrition, but is also caused by aging, congestive heart failure, diabetes or liver disease, according to the NHS.UK website.
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- National Institutes of Health: Nail abnormalities
- NHS.UK.gov: Nail Abnormalities
- Singal A, Arora R. Nail as a window of systemic diseases. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2015;6(2):67-74. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.153002
- Yaemsiri S, Hou N, Slining MM, He K. Growth rate of human fingernails and toenails in healthy American young adults. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2010;24(4):420-3. doi:10.1111/j.1468-3083.2009.03426.x
- Schons KR, Knob CF, Murussi N, Beber AA, Neumaier W, Monticielo OA. Nail psoriasis: a review of the literature. An Bras Dermatol. 2014;89(2):312-7. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20142633
- Abdullah L, Abbas O. Common nail changes and disorders in older people: Diagnosis and management. Can Fam Physician. 2011;57(2):173-81.
- Sarkar M, Mahesh DM, Madabhavi I. Digital clubbing. Lung India. 2012;29(4):354-62. doi:10.4103/0970-2113.102824
- Haneke E. Controversies in the treatment of ingrown nails. Dermatol Res Pract. 2012;2012:783924. doi:10.1155/2012/783924
- Jefferson J, Rich P. Melanonychia. Dermatol Res Pract. 2012;2012:952186. doi:10.1155/2012/952186
- Aging Changes in Hair and Nails. Medline. National Institutes of Health Public Information Sheet.
- Nails and Nail Problems. American Academy of Dermatology Public Information Sheet.
Sarah Barnes has been a professional writer and editor since 2004. She has been published in newspapers and regional magazines in the Wichita, Kansas area. Barnes holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from a Midwestern university.