The shape, texture, and color of your natural nails act as a window into your body, and while some nail symptoms are harmless, others can be indicative of a disease.
If you notice any significant changes in your nails, including swelling, discolorations, or changes in shape or thickness, see a dermatologist right away. It could be nothing, or it could be due to an underlying condition.
Here are 9 nail symptoms you might experience and what they mean for your health.
1. Yellow Nails
Your nails may yellow with age, due to smoking, or the use of acrylic nails or nail polish.
If nails are thick, crumbly, and yellow, it could be a fungal infection.
Less often, yellow nails may be related to thyroid disease, diabetes, psoriasis, or respiratory disease.
2. Dry, Cracked or Brittle Nails
This can happen If you have your hands in water a lot (washing dishes, swimming), use nail polish remover frequently, or are exposed to chemicals (cleaning products) often.
Brittle nails may be due to a deficiency in vitamins A, B and C.
Cracking and splitting can also be caused by a fungal infection or thyroid disease.
Clubbing (when nail becomes curved downward) can be a sign of low oxygen in your blood and is associated with lung disease.
It can also be related to liver or kidney disease, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and AIDS.
4. White Spots
Usually white spots are the result of nail trauma and will fade or grow out on their own.
Less commonly, white spots that do not go away could be due to a fungal infection.
5. Horizontal Ridges
This is typically the result of direct trauma to the nail or a more serious illness, in which case you’ll see it on more than one nail at a time.
Horizontal ridges may also be due to psoriasis, uncontrolled diabetes, circulatory disease, or severe zinc deficiency.
Horizontal lines with discolorations may be due to arsenic poisoning, Hodgkin’s disease, malaria, leprosy, or carbon monoxide poisoning.
6. Vertical Ridges
Vertical ridges are typically a normal sign of aging.
In some cases, they may be due to nutrient deficiencies, including vitamin B12 and magnesium.
7. Spoon Nails
Nails that curve upward at the edges may be a sign of iron-deficiency anemia, hemochromatosis (excess iron absorption), heart disease, or hypothyroidism.
If your nails have multiple pits or dents, it’s often a sign of psoriasis.
Nail pitting may also be due to connective tissue disorders or alopecia areata.
9. Dark Discolorations
Black streaks or painful growths on your nail warrant an immediate trip to your physician, as they may be due to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.