While the occasional crack, bruise, or white line in a fingernail is usually caused by nothing more serious than trauma to the base of the nail, persistent lines or discoloration appearing on more than one nail can be an early warning sign for a much bigger problem. Look over the following ten warnings that your fingernails may be sending. If any of them seem to describe your nails, it’s time to take action!
1. Pale, thin nails
If your nails look thin and pale, it could be a sign that you aren’t getting enough iron from your diet. Iron deficiency reduces the amount of oxygen that your blood carries throughout the body. Try adding foods like dark leafy greens, legumes, and red meat to your menu to fix the problem.
On a more serious note, chronically thin and pale fingernails can be a sign of anemia, a fairly common condition where the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. If you notice yourself feeling tired more often than not, you’ll definitely want to see your doctor to explore treatment options right away.
2. White nails with blue base
When the body doesn’t metabolize sugars as it should, the resulting lack of energy and nutrients can cause the fingernails to look very pale (just like with iron deficiency) but with a blue-ish tone around the nail base. This problem is most often caused by insulin deficiency or Diabetes, a condition where the liver and pancreas malfunction and stop producing the needed enzymes to regulate blood-glucose levels. You’ll want to talk to your doctor and have them perform a test to be sure. In the mean time, consider cutting back on sugar to slow the process.
3. White or white-striped nails
Fingernails marked by a series of pale or white stripes that run horizontally across more than one nail can indicate that you aren’t getting enough protein in your diet. While consuming more lean meats, soy, legumes, nuts, seeds, and cold-water fish can go a long way toward correcting this problem, there may be more to it than just the foods you eat.
In some cases, white stripes across your fingernails could be caused by kidney or liver disease. Only a doctor can properly diagnose these conditions, but there are still some steps which you can take to heal your body at home.
4. Yellowish nails
Finger- or toenails that grow out yellow are a sure sign that there is an intruder living in your nail beds. Fungal infections grow between the nail and skin, so they can be very hard to get rid of. While your doctor can prescribe medications that will fix the problem, most of them come with some pretty undesirable side-effects.
Yellowish nails aren’t always caused by fungus, however. If you notice they’re growing much more slowly than they used to in addition to the discoloration, your fingernails may actually be relaying a message from your lungs. A more serious condition like emphysema or pleural effusion (fluid accumulation around the lungs) may be the problem.
5. Redness in nails
If your nail beds appear more red than pink, this could be a sign that your heart is in trouble. Again, you’ll definitely want to see your doctor as soon as possible so he or she can run some tests to discover the exact cause. In the mean time, there are many natural ways to improve your heart health.
If the redness appears as irregular red lines around the cuticle and sides of your nails, this could be a symptom of Lupus, an autoimmune disorder where your body begins attacking its own healthy tissues as though they were pathogens or other foreign substances.
6. Blue or purple nails
Blueish or purple discoloration of the nails (as well as the fingers and toes themselves) is one of the major indicators of poor circulation. In this case, inadequate blood flow deprives nail beds of oxygen causing the skin there to take on a darker tone instead of its normal, healthy warm color.
Of course, it’s still advisable to have a doctor test you for possible more serious heart conditions!
7. Dark stripes on nails
If you have one or more dark brown stripes running the length of any of your nails (not just a bruise that you can account for) this is a possible indicator of melanoma, a form of skin cancer usually marked by the sudden and rapid growth of dark brown spots or moles. While natural remedies won’t cure the cancer and you’ll definitely need to seek professional medical treatment, there are some antioxidant-rich foods that you can add to your diet to help slow the process and prevent further free-radical damage to your cells.
8. Pitted nails
Nails marked by a multitude of small pits are actually an early warning sign of Psoriasis, an inflammatory disease which eventually causes the formation of large painful rashes all over the body. Again, have your doctor test you for the possibility of having this condition.
9. Brittle or thin nails
Lack of nutrients can cause your nails to grow out thin and brittle. In some cases, this may be due to nothing more than poor diet. However, if you notice that your nails have been chipping, cracking, or breaking much more easily than normal and and you also feel tired for no apparent reason, you may actually be experiencing symptoms of Hypothyroidism – a condition where your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormone to keep your body and metabolism functioning at a healthy level.
10. Separated nails
On the opposite side of the coin, if your nails frequently separate from the nail bed and you haven’t done anything to physically cause it (ie: repetitive nail-tapping on a hard surface, stubbing a toe or finger, etc) then you may have too much thyroid hormone in your system.
While it may seem very redundant, the insistence on seeking professional medical advice given throughout this article cannot be stated enough. Many of the conditions which cause abnormal nail growth can be life-threatening if not properly treated. (We’re natural health enthusiasts, not MDs!) So, here it is one more time:
No self–diagnosis can compare to the expert care of a medical professional. If you finish reading through these warning signs and come to the conclusion that your fingernails are trying to warn you of a potentially dangerous health problem, you should definitely consult with your doctor as soon as possible!