There’s an expression that says the eyes are the window to the soul. That means that when we look into someone’s eyes, we can tell what they are feeling or thinking. However, did you know that when we look at fingernails, they can frequently provide insight into our health? Though nails can become weak or discolored from chemical exposure or hard manual labor, such as frequent dishwashing, problems with nails can also be related to illness. Not only can nails signal nutritional deficiencies, such as lack of Vitamin B, but doctors indicate that problems with the liver, lungs, and heart can also show up in nails.
Per WebMD, a reliable leading source of health and medical information, explains the importance significance of nail discoloration. “A touch of white here, a rosy tinge there, or some rippling or bumps may be a sign of disease in the body.” For example, pale nails, known as leukonychia, can indicate trauma, anemia, dietary deficiencies, heart or kidney disease, or even poisoning. And nails that are mostly white with darker rims may potentially be related to hepatitis, which may also be accompanied with jaundice, or yellowing of the skin due to high bilirubin levels. Yellow nails can mean a fungal infection or more serious conditions such as thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and lung disease. Or it can be the result of smoking or wearing nail polish without base. Blue nails are associated with lack of oxygen in the bloodstream. Rippled nails may indicate inflammatory arthritis or other conditions. Cracked and split nails may be linked to thyroid disease. And, dark discoloration can be from infection, injury, or even skin cancer.
Following the pandemic, a significant number of family doctors continue to offer convenient virtual appointments. While telemedicine is frequently appropriate, it is equally important for patients to see their doctor regularly and in person to gain thorough visual checkups. Though nails may not tell us everything about a person’s health, they can certainly provide significant clues. Should a physician notice warning signs related to poor nail health, further testing of the patient may be encouraged, or possible solutions addressed. Additionally, any visual changes to the nails should be discussed at an upcoming appointment, with further investigation if needed.
Note: This article is for general purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.