If we see a strange-looking mole pop up on our arm, we’re likely to take immediate action to see what’s going on. However, when weird things are going on with our nails, we might not think twice about it. We should! There are many things your nails are telling you about your health, and a few of them might indicate a serious need to visit your doctor. That yellowish tint? Not normal. An incredibly white tint? Also not normal. An indentation across the span of the nail? Really not normal.
I’m someone who almost always has my nails painted, so many times I don’t even remember what my plain nails even look like, let alone if their natural tint or shape is different. What I never realized was how much my nails could say to me about my overall health. Now I’ll be paying far more attention. If you feel you haven’t removed your polish and examined yours in a while, either, it might just be time for all of us to do so. Just as symptoms on your skin can speak volumes about what’s going on in your body, so can your nails. Everything from the color, to the shape, to the curvature can mean something is a little off. If you pay attention, though, and catch it early enough, you’ll be able to get a professional’s take on what’s happening before it becomes too much of a problem. Here are six things your nails are telling you about your health.
1. If You’re Anemic
Have you noticed lately that your fingernails are looking much whiter than usual? According to Shape, this could be a sign of anemia, a blood disorder where you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells. Shilpi Agarwal, M.D., a board-certified family medicine and integrative and holistic medicine physician in Los Angeles, told the outlet, “Anemia resulting from low levels of iron can lead to inadequate oxygen in the blood, which causes the skin and tissues to become pale, particularly the tissues under the nails.” Take a close look at yours, and if you think this may be an issue for you, visit your doctor. You’ll also want to amp up the amount of iron in your diet by consuming foods like green leafy veggies, beans, and red meat, according to Shape.
2. If You Have Lung Disease
Another health issue that can show signs through your fingernails is lung disease. According to Mayo Clinic, nail clubbing is often a side effect of lung problems. Nail clubbing is when the tips of your fingers enlarge and the nails start to curve around the fingertips, according to Mayo Clinic. The outlet noted this often happens due to low levels of oxygen in the blood — associated with a variety of lung diseases.
3. If You Have A Fungus
If your nails are yellow, and especially if they are painful as well, this could be a sure sign you’re facing a nail fungus, according to Prevention. The tint of yellow associated with a nail fungus could range from subtle to dramatic, and shouldn’t be ignored, the outlet said. According to WebMD, the nails might also get far thicker than usual, and might also tend to crack and crumble easily. You should see your doctor if you think you’re dealing with a fungus, as the fungus can get worse if not properly treated.
4. If You Have A Zinc Deficiency
Beau’s lines are indentation lines that run from side-to-side across either your finger or toes nails, according to Mayo Clinic, and they happen when nail growth has been affected by either an injury, or something going on inside the body — like a severe zinc deficiency. Oysters and beef are two great sources of the nutrient if you feel you may need to get more into your diet. Regardless, if you notice Beau’s lines, you should see your doctor ASAP. Mayo Clinic noted Beau’s lines are also associated with bigger health issues, as well, including diabetes and peripheral vascular disease, so they certainly shouldn’t be ignored.
5. If You Have Melanoma
I used to work at a dermatologist’s office, and I can’t tell you the number of times I saw this first hand. Someone would come in with a dark mark under one of their nails not thinking much of it, and it would turn out to be melanoma. Luckily, if caught early enough, things would turn out fine for them, however if you notice something similar head to your dermatologist right away. According to Shape, oftentimes people are great about regularly checking their body for strange moles and marks, but tend to forget their nails during their search. Meanwhile, nails can be a dangerous place for melanoma. Dr. Agarwal said, “Dark brown or black vertical lines on the nail bed should never be ignored. These can be a hallmark sign of melanoma, which requires early detection and treatment.”
6. If You Have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Not all nail biters need to fret here… some people simply do it out of habit, or gnaw on their nails when they’re extremely nervous. Nail-biting is rather common, actually, according to Health. However, if the biting is excessive in that you constantly find yourself biting and picking at your nails until their next-to-nothing, it could mean something bigger is happening. Health noted this could be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist, told the outlet, “Sometimes psychiatric medicine is required to treat OCD-related nail biting.” That said, it’s not something that should be ignored. If you’re exhibiting other signs of OCD (a list of symptoms can be found here), consider visiting your doctor to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
Take that coat of nail polish off tonight and examine those nails of yours. If you notice any of the above symptoms happening with them, take it as a sign you might need to visit your doctor for a checkup. It can be detrimental to our overall health if we ignore what our nails are trying to tell us.
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