Nails are not just a surface reserved for decoration. Experts can find clues to internal abnormalities and diseases just by detecting the texture, colour, shape and overall appearance of nails. Problems in the liver, lung and heart could be detected by signs in nails.
It is always a good habit to take care of your appearance. That’s why you should check for changes in your skin and nails constantly.
What are nails?
“A horny sheath protecting the upper end of each finger and toe of humans and most other primates.” - Merriam - Webster Dictionary
How should normal nails look?
Usually pinkish, smooth surface and with a healthy glow
Good habits for healthy nails
- Use a personal nail cutter
- Cut nails often. The shape of fingernails don’t matter but toenails are usually square
- Keep nails clean
- Manicures and pedicures should be done only by professionals.
- When polishing nails, the top coat and base coat are mandatory
- Remove nail polish once a week
- Minimize the use of nail polish, nail polish removers and harsh chemicals on nails
- If any abnormalities occur, do not hide them with nail extensions, visit a doctor if necessary.
Nails and health
Yellow Nails - Nails with a yellow tinge - Yellow nails could indicate an underlying issue of lymphatic system. In chronic situations such as kidney diseases, nails look more whitish. Fungal infections are also responsible for yellow nails. Smoking stains also appear. Nail polish too can cause this.
Nail Clubbing - Nails bent at the edge - loss of normal angle in the nail bed is the reason for this condition. The tips of nails are swollen or bulging and curve downward.
White spots - Small white patches on nails - Children enjoy these as they think they signify new friendships. They are normal on children’s nails.
On some occasions, certain types of medication for diseases like cancer are also responsible for dark pigmentation of nails. Skin pigmentations could differ and lead to spots.
Ridges - Vertical lines occur due to age. Only horizontal ridges need attention. On a few occasions, these horizontal ridges may indicate situations like heavy metal poisoning.
Brittle nails - Common among people with dry skin. It’s advisable to apply moisturising creams like Aqueous cream on the nail and the nail folds.
Dark bands - Small vertical lines in darker tone - Longitudinal dark bands are common in dark-skinned people. At other times they are caused by Melanoma, skin cancer, which is a rare condition.
Beau’s lines - Horizontal lines on nail
These may occur following a serious illness which puts a strain on the body’s resources. Nail growth slows down during the illness and later appear as horizontal lines on the nail. Foot and mouth disease and Dengue fever are two examples.
Nail pitting - Small pits in nails - They are common in conditions such as Psoriasis and look like scaling. It is normal for nails to look irregular when people have eczema.
Viral warts - warts appear around the nails and spread to adjacent areas. This needs quick medical attention or it will spread and destroy the nail.
Paronychia - Nail fold starts swelling – this occurs when inflammation takes place in the nail fold. Exposure to excess amounts of water, detergents and soap may lead to this. In addition to medication, measures to minimize exposure to water and detergents are necessary to cure this condition.
Pale nails - whitish nails due to lack of blood circulation - this pallor is common in Anaemia and malnutrition.
Lifting nails (Onycholysis) -nails look separate from the nail bed - they are lifted upward from the nail bed. An aggressive manicure, nail hardeners or glues could also cause damage. If the nail colour has also changed to opaque white, green or yellow, this could point to everything from a thyroid disease or psoriasis to injury and infection.