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Your nails: whether you're fond of painting them or they're but an afterthought to your appearance that you barely remember to cut, they're important. The physical appearance and overall condition of your nails can reveal key health issues that should never be ignored. What do you need to know?

Strangely Colored Nails

Extremely pale, almost white, nails all over can signal anemia and malnutrition, but also congestive heart failure and liver disease. If the rest of your nails are nearly as white as the lanula, the part that is supposed to be white, go see a doctor.

Totally white nails, on the other hand, could be genetic if you've had them since birth and your relatives also have them. They can also, however, offer clues to health conditions as serious as Hodgkin's lymphoma and diabetes.

Nails that have a yellow hue can point to lymphedema and serious lung disease, while blue nails indicate that you are not taking in enough oxygen and may suffer from lung conditions such as emphysema, or have heart issues.

Nail Structure Issues And The Health Conditions They Point To

Though brittle and cracking nails with a yellow tone are more likely to point to a fungal infection, those whose nails frequently break off in the absence of an unsual color might be suffering from thyroid disease.

If your nails have a rippling, wavy appearance, you could be dealing with eczema, and if they look like you've been poking tiny holes in them with a needle, psoriasis is a more likely candidate. Vertical ridges can also point to nutritional deficiencies, letting you know that it is time to get a blood test.

Black lines underneath the nail bed, while they could be due to bruising, could also be a symptom of melanoma, the deadly skin cancer. See your doctor right now if you are experiencing this. Note that people of color more often have totally benign black streaks under their nails, but in Caucasian people, black lines under the nails are treated as melanoma until another diagnosis can be made.

Curved nails, meanwhile, can point to anything from anemia to lung disease, and swelling can indicate angioedema.

Keeping Your Nails Healthy

  • Your nails need moisturizing, too: when you put lotion on the rest of your hands, don't skip your nails and consider getting a cuticle oil too.
  • Do not bite your nails. If you cannot stop yourself from biting your nails, this leaves you vulnerable to infections. Ask your doctor for advice if this applies to you or your child. Likewise, do not pick at your nails or use them to open things.
  • Keep your nails and the skin underneath them healthy by trimming and filing them regularly, avoiding extremely long nails which can cause the accumulation of dirt and bacteria.
  • Clean underneath your nails on a regular basis, every few days.
  • Consider taking biotin to strengthen your finger nails.
  • Even if you do wear nail polish or have artificial nails applied regularly, make sure you get the chance to observe the natural state of your nails on a regular basis by keeping them free from artificial add-ons for a few weeks here and there. This gives you the opportunity to see whether any of the above signs of serious health problems apply to you.

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