Guide To Deciphering Your Fingernail Health & What To Do About It!

Fingernails aren’t something you normally think about when considering your overall health. However, your fingernails can give you clues on what’s going on in your body!

Taking care of your nails is an important part of keeping them healthy. This article goes over some tips for keeping your nails healthy and information on possible nail conditions.

Take periodic breaks from nail polish
It’s a common belief that your nails need time to breath between manicures, but this isn’t exactly true. Your nails don’t need to breathe, but keeping nail polish on for long periods can lead to other problems.

Using acetone remover on a regular basis dry’s out your nails. Leaving on nail polish for a while also makes you more susceptible to develop keratin granulation. Both of these side effects make it easier to pick up a nail infection.

Moisturize your cuticles
Your cuticles act as a protective barrier for your nails. Without your cuticles, your nail bed is open to infection.

It’s a good idea to consciously keep your cuticles moisturized. Vitamin E oil is excellent for moisturizing and healing damaged cuticles.

When getting a pedicure, it’s not a bad idea to pass on the cuticle trimming. Taking this precaution reduces your risk of infection. Signs of infection include redness, swelling and pain.

Keep your nails trimmed
Shorter nails are less likely to get caught, pulled, chipped or broken. Anyone who’s suffered the pain of a broken nail knows it’s not fun.
Cut your nails straight across. This allows the nail to grow back evenly and is easier to cut the next time.

Skip the acrylic nails
The chemicals used in acrylic may be more harmful than we think. Acrylic and similar types of nails are known to cause skin irritation and inflammation in some people.

Of course getting acrylic nails once in a while won’t hurt, however it’s important to remember to it’s not natural to expose your nails to chemicals all the time. Moderation is key.

Different marks, colors, and shapes on your nails can indicate changes in your health.

Brown fingernails, white spots or nail clubbing, can all be warning signs.

If you notice your nails doing any of the following, you should notify your doctor as soon as possible!

White Bands (Muehrecke’s Nails)
This change in your fingernails can indicate an underlying medical disorder or condition. These lines in your fingers happen in the vascular nail bed [1], under the plate.

Because of the location of these bands/lines, they don’t move with nail growth. When you put pressure on your nail, you can see these lines disappear.

Sudden drops of protein in your diet can cause Muehrecke’s nails to develop. Factors that cause this drop range from nephrotic syndrome to chemotherapy. Reduced protein synthesis can also be a sign of liver and kidney disease.

Nail Clubbing
Nail clubbing is when your nails grow and curve at a downward angle. Your nails slowly begin to club over time, in 5 distinct stages.

First, your fingers begin to lose the normal angle that exists between your nail bed and the fold.

Second, the convexity of the nail fold starts to increase.

Next, the end of your finger (distal) begins to thicken and resemble a drumstick.

The last stage of nail clubbing is when your nails are shiny with distinct lines.

Lung cancer, tuberculosis, lung disease and mesothelioma are all diseases that nail clubbing can indicate.

Nail clubbing is closely linked with many types of heart disease, with cyanotic heart disease being the most common cause. Chron’s disease, cirrhosis, and malabsorption are also known causes.

If you notice your nails starting to club, see your doctor right away. Your doctor will give you a full examination that focuses on your heart, lungs, and gastrointestinal system.

Nail clubbing is an extreme example that shows how your fingernail health relates to the rest of your body.

Here are a couple more nail conditions & symptoms to look out for!

Spoon-Shaped Nails (Koilonychia)
Koilonychia nails are abnormally thin and flat and often curve at a severe enough angle to hold liquid in your nail.

Spoon-shaped nails have connections to iron levels in your body. Too much iron (hemochromatosis) causes this condition. Too little iron (iron deficiency) can also cause spoon shaped nails due to a lower red blood cell count.

In addition, Raynaud’s disease is known to affect the blood supply to your fingers and toes and is another cause of nail spooning.

White Pale Nails (Terry’s Nails)
Terry’s nails are when your nails visibly appear white, and the root (lunula) of your nails is no longer visible [2].

Terry’s nails are caused by old age and also many severe health condition conditions.

Around 80% of patients with liver disease develop Terry’s nails. Patients with kidney failure, congestive heart failure, malnutrition, and hyperthyroidism are also known to suffer from Terry’s Nails.

If you recognize these changes in your nails, early you can get a jump on any condition that may be developing.

Horizontal Indentations (Beau’s Nails)
Beau’s nails are when indentations run from side to side across your finger or toe nails. This condition is named after a French physician, Joseph HonorĂ© Simon Beau [3], who discovered it in 1846.

Beau’s nails are often confused with Muehrecke’s nails. The indentations caused by Beau’s nails are caused by cell division stopping in your nail matrix.

Infections, injuries, hypocalcemia, coronary occlusion, and malnutrition, are some factors that can slow cell division.

All in all, it’s important to keep a look out for any changes in your nails. This is one way our body talks to us; we just need to know how to listen [4].

Remember to take care of your nails properly too. When you pay close attention to your nails, you can quickly identify changes to them and your health!

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