Nail Conditions and your Skin

You’ve probably heard somewhere before that a person’s fingernails reveals a lot of information about their health. Well, it’s true! Your fingernails are a clear window into your health. Some changes with fingernails are natural, but others indicate some health concerns, especially when there is a change in growth patterns and nail color. If you notice a sudden change in your nails, don’t hesitate to call your dermatologist or doctor. Those in the New York City area can click here for a conveniently located dermatologist.

How Nails Grow

The nails are part of your skin. They grow under the base of your nail and under your cuticles and are made up of several layers of protein called keratin. As new nail cells grow, the old nail cells get compacted and hard and gradually push out toward the fingertips.

Harmless Nail Conditions

A healthy fingernail is one that is smooth, without grooves, spots, ridges or discoloration. Some nails develop harmless conditions, like a vertical ridge running from the cuticles to the top of the nail. These become more prominent as you age. Some nails develop white spots or lines due to an injury, but they eventually grow out of the nail and won’t cause health problems.

Nail Problems Due To Stress

In some circumstances, a change in your nails is due to stress in your body. For example, if you have a serious infection or injury, a high fever or another major illness, your nails might stop growing temporarily. This is because your body knows to shift its energy from the lower priority of growing nails to taking care of your illness or injury first. Later, when the nails start to grow again, you might see horizontal lines across them. This is where the nail growth temporarily stopped, and they are called Beau’s lines. Beau’s lines are no cause for concern at all, and will grow out over time.

Serious Nail Problems

There are several nail changes that do signal you have an underlying skin or medical problem. When there is a noticeable change in your nail color, it requires immediate attention, especially if it starts turning red, yellow or if you start noticing dots of color or stripes. Color changes can be one of the first signs of skin cancer, a nail fungus or other skin and medical conditions. If you have some type of kidney problem or liver failure, it can cause your mails to turn yellow or white near the tips and cuticles. Nails that turn yellow also indicate a respiratory condition, like bronchitis.

Fingernail Clubbing

When your fingernails curve more than they normally should, it’s called clubbing of the nails. This is often a sign of having low oxygen levels in your blood and might be associated with lung disease. Fingernail clubbing can also be due to inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease or liver problems.

Spoon Nails

Another nail condition, called koilonychias or spoon nails, is when the nails grow in a way that it looks like a ski jump. This condition is a sign that you might be anemic.

Other Nail Conditions

Some other concerning fingernail conditions include indention, pitting, dimpling and splitting of the nails. All of these nail conditions point to over a dozen causes of skin disorders that affect your nails. One example is psoriasis. Psoriasis is a very common skin condition that causes a rapid build up of skin cells. Next, there is lichen planus which is an inflammation of the skin condition. Dermatitis is another skin disorder that causes inflammation and can show up in your nails.

These are just a few of the more common nail conditions. If your nails begin to look strange, or if they start changing, talk to a dermatologist or doctor to see if there is an underlying reason.

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