"Just like the eyes are the window to the soul, so are the nails," says Tamara Lior, MD, a dermatologist with Cleveland Clinic Florida.. A number of health problems have an impact on the nails. Subtle variations in the texture or colour or shape can provide important clues to the trained eyes.
What follows is a list of nail changes that could indicate a health problem:
1. Yellow discoloration in fingernails
- Yellow nails occur in a condition called Yellow Nail Syndrome. In this condition, along with yellow nails, the patient also has pleural effusion (collection of fluid within the covering of the lungs) and lymphedema. The pleural effusion may be associated with lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis
- Nails thicken and new growth slows, resulting in discoloration; they may detach from the nail bed in places
- A person may have yellow nails and yet have no serious illness. Yellow nails may also be associated with fungal infection or overuse of nail polish.
- Conditions like chronic liver disease, nephrotic syndrome, protein malnutrition (kwashiorkor) which cause loss of albumin result in white nails
- Small depressions in the nails commonly occur in psoriasis; it may also be due to nail injuries
- Conditions where the nail cuticle gets damaged also cause pitting. These conditions include chronic dermatitis of fingers, alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease)
- Here tips of the fingers enlarge and nails curve around fingertips.
- Clubbing can be due to a large number of causes affecting various systems of the body, especially respiratory conditions
- Clubbing can also be occupational
- Inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease and liver disease are other common causes
6. Irregular red lines at the base of the nail fold (Nail fold erythema and telangiectasia) signify conditions like systemic lupus erythematosus, other connective tissue diseases and vasculitis
7. Pale or white nail beds are usually due to anaemia
8. Spoon nails (koilonychia)
- Nails look scooped out
- Koilonychia is sign of chronic iron deficiency anemia. Nails become brittle, flat and eventually spoon-shaped
- Nails are opaque with a dark band at the tip
- Terry’s nails could be due to aging
- Serious conditions associated with Terry’s nails are: Congestive heart failure, diabetes, liver disease, malnutrition
- These are transverse white grooves which appear at the same time on all nails shortly after a severe illness and which move out to the free margins as the nails grow
- They arise due to temporary arrest of nail growth
- Fingernails become loose and separate from the nail bed.
- This could be due to injury or infection, psoriasis, thyroid disease, drug reactions, reactions to nail hardeners or acrylic nails
- These are small vertical reddish to reddish brown lines seen under the nails.
- Multiple splinter haemorrhages should raise the suspicion of infective endocarditis.
- These are however common in healthy manual workers due to rough use of their hands
- This usually causes thickening of nails
- Whitening or yellowing of the nail plate can also occur
When to See a Dermatologist?
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