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The eyes are the window to the soul and nails are the window to health. Imperfections on your nails could actually be warning signs of numerous health conditions - psoriasis, lupus, heart, liver and kidney disease to diabetes, anemia and even melanoma.
Look down at your fingernails and see if they are smooth and pink in color. You may notice some rippling, bumps, or an odd color. The eyes are the window to the soul and the nails are the window to health. Basically, you can tell a lot about a person’s state of health simply by looking at the nailbeds. Imperfections could actually be warning signs of anything from A (anemia) to Z (zinc deficiency). Changes in the nails can indicate something mild or something serious.

Serious Health Conditions that Affect the appearance of your Nails

  1. Liver Disease (Hepatitis or Cirrhosis) - People who develop a compromised or nonfunctioning liver have white nails.
  2. Lung Disease (Emphysema or Chronic Bronchitis) - These people tend to develop yellowish nails that have a slight blush at the base. Many times these people develop ‘clubbing’ of the nails. This is where the nail has increased tissue around the ends of the fingers or inversion of the nail.
  3. Kidney Disease - When a person has renal insufficiency or problems related to the kidney
  4. Heart Disease – People who develop cardiac conditions often have really red-colored nails.
  5. Diabetes – Individuals with diabetes have yellowish nails that have a slight blush at the base.
  6. Anemia – People with anemia have really pale nails that often times are spoon-shaped.
  7. Melanoma – You may notice dark lines beneath your nail if you have this deadly form of skin cancer.
  8. Lupus or Connective Tissue Disease – People with this problem have irregular red lines at the base of the nail fold.
  9. Psoriasis – People with this skin condition have thick pitting nails that take on a dented appearance. They are usually yellowish in color, too.
  10. Nail Fungus – If you notice a greenish or yellow hue to your nail, chances are you have contracted some sort of fungal infection. These nail conditions cause swelling or pain at the cuticle area. Also, a bacterial infection of the nail can cause color changes too.


The nail plate is composed of several layers of keratin which is a protein substance. These layers are sealed together to form a unified, strong nail. When your nails are exposed to cold dry air or you have your hands in the water a lot, these layers may start to peel and the nails get excessively thin. Try polishing your nails with a hardening solution available at most drug stores. The easiest way to toughen up your nails is to increase your intake of vegetable oils.


Around 20% of women suffer with a condition known as “brittle nail syndrome”. It is when they have an underactive thyroid that causes the nails to dry out and crack. Nutritionally, a diet low in protein and iron can lead to this, as well. Biotin supplements and B-Complex vitamins have been known to improve the condition of nails that are brittle. Eat more meats and beans for protein and iron. Also, have your family doctor check your thyroid, too.

Yellow Color

This looks bad but it is not always actually bad. Yellowing nails could be the result of polish staining and will return to their normal shade after a while. Women who wear dark or bright colored polish should consider using a protective basecoat underneath it. This is the nail problem that is the easiest to remedy.

Tiny White Splotches

These are odd looking but are generally not a sign of anything serious. More often than not, these splotches occur when there is trauma to the nail. If you have an injured nail matrix (the area at the base of the nail) you will have these white spots until the nail grows out. The same thing occurs when you slam your nail into a door. A diet that is deficient in the mineral zinc can also produce whitish spots on the nails. Just increase your dietary intake of zinc and be more careful with your nails.


If your nails look like a ripple chip, don’t freak out. This is a condition called Beau’s lines and it is a sign of a decrease in nail growth. When you are under stress or have been sick with a virus, the nail may temporarily cease to grown. This is where an indentation occurs along the nail in the form of a ridge.

When Do I Need to See a Doctor?

If you suspect you have a fungal infection or any of the disease mentioned above, you should notify your healthcare professional of the nail issue. It may be nothing serious, but it will warrant checking it out with an expert. Warts and cysts around the nails can cause pain and irritation and while they are not life-threatening, they can be troublesome. Have your dermatologist check these out as well.

Tips for Lengthy, Healthy, and Strong Nails

  • Avoid using other peoples grooming materials and tools.
  • Keep your nails clean and dry.
  • Don't remove the cuticles or clean too aggressively under your nails. This can lead to infection.
  • Avoid nail-biting or picking.
  • Apply moisturizer to your nails and cuticles daily and use creams with urea, phospholipids, or lactic acid, which can help prevent cracking.
  • File your nails in one direction and round the tip slightly.
  • Don't remove the cuticles or clean too aggressively under your nails. This can lead to infection.
  • Don't dig out ingrown toenails. See a dermatologist if they become bothersome.
  • Avoid nail polish removers that contain acetone or formaldehyde.
  • Bring your own instruments if you get frequent manicures.
  • If you have artificial nails, check regularly for green discoloration, which could indicate a fungus or bacterial infection.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and take vitamins containing biotin.
  • Ask your doctor to take a look at your nails during your next checkup. 
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