Some people take great pride in the appearance of their nails, while others really don't pay any attention to their nails, except when they need clipping. Because your fingernails can tell you quite a lot about your general health, people should take note of their condition, however.
What nail problems should you never ignore?
Black Lines On The Nails
A few "black" (most often actually brown or dark red, on closer inspection) lines under the nails are typically caused by minuscule hemorrhages. You could have injured your nail while working, engaging in DIY, cleaning the house, or sport. This is nothing serious and will clear up on its own. (If many nails show these little lines and it doesn't clear up, it can, however, be a sign of something like psoriasis or lupus. Check in with your doctor in that case.)
In some cases, the dark lines may also be actual little splinters, which will cause pain and can become infected. Get a splinter out if you can. Soaking it in an enzyme-based laundry detergent can sometimes help.
Thicker dark lines of the nail are known as linear melanonychia. It usually doesn't point to anything serious, but do take it seriously — these darker black lines can be a sign of malignant melanoma under your nail. See a doctor.
Yellow nails are most often caused by fungal nail infections, which can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal medications. They may also indicate psoriasis, upper respiratory problems, or jaundice (caused by liver problems).
Abnormally white nails can point to fungal nail infections, as well as numerous other problems such as diabetes, liver problems, kidney problems, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, anemia, or malnutrition.
Green-ish nails typically point to a bacterial infection, while nails that are brown at the tips but normal everywhere else can point to kidney failure.
We should note that the frequent application of nail polish can also discolor the nails, as can working with chemicals or paints, of course.
Structural Abnormalities Of The Nails
Abnormally thick nails are often the result of a fungal nail infection (those things have a lot to answer for!). Psoriasis and arthritis can also be to blame here.
Are your nails loose, to the point of nearly or actually falling off? This unpleasant phenomenon can, once again, be the result of fungal nail infections. Loose nails can also indicate poor blood circulation, psoriasis, hyperthyroidism, connective tissue disorders, and other medical conditions. In addition, it's no surprise that a heavy blow to a nail can cause that nail to fall off. If all your nails are becoming loose and you don't know why, it is, however, time for a doctor.
Brittle nails are often thought to occur as the result of nutritional deficiencies. While that can be the cause, brittle nails can also be the result of continuous contact with fluids followed by drying the nails. Wearing gloves as you engage in work or household tasks can help cure this.
If your nails have indentations, are abnormally curved inward or outward, or have pits, you could be dealing with any number of medical conditions, ranging from (again!) psoriasis, arthritis, or poor circulation to eczema, cancer, liver disease, or irritable bowel disease.
The Bottom Line
If something abnormal is happening to your nails that cannot be explained by a recent injury or a disease you are already aware you have, it is time to seek medical attention. As insignificant as nails seem, they can, as you've seen, point to rather serious health problems.
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