Health & Wellness / Home & Family

What Your Fingernails and Toenails Are Telling You…

Weak fingernails, especially those prone to brittleness, cracking, breaking, chipping, splitting, or peeling, can be unattractive and downright painful. In some cases, weakened fingernails may signal an underlying medical condition or disease, sometimes indicating problems of the liver, lungs, or heart. Or they may be caused by other factors such as nail infections, fungal growth, arthritis, thyroid issues, skin cancer, nutritional and vitamin deficiencies, nail biting, regular use of polish, prolonged contact with water or more. Often nail health is affected by aging and older adults can benefit from simple treatments to keep nails healthy and strong.

The best things a person can do is to be proactive with their healthcare. This includes having physicians examine nails as part of their regular health checkups. As people age, bodies typically go through changes, so older adults should feel free to discuss changes to their nails with their healthcare professionals. With aging, nails tend to dry out, become duller, and even grow more slowly. Fingernails may become thinner and more prone to breakage. Vertical lines from the cuticle to the nail tip may also become more visible. Toenails may go through changes, too, becoming thicker and harder. To reduce problems related to aging nails, doctors may offer a variety of treatments. For example, doctors may suggest taking biotin orally, or increasing calcium or protein intake, to reduce nail splitting and breakage. They may also discuss good nail hygiene, use of moisturizers and protective layers, or fingernail health dos and don’ts. Under some circumstances, doctors may order bloodwork or other tests to rule out medical conditions that can contribute to declining nail health. People should see their doctor if sudden nail changes occur, nails become thin or separate from the skin, if there is bleeding, pain or swelling, or if nails fail to thrive.

It is often said that they eyes are the window to the soul. However, with medical advancements, we are learning that nails can sometimes be a window of our health. Many people shrug off nail issues or seek out non-medically approved remedies, some of which are ineffective or may cause further harm to nailbeds. Or they may seek advice from nail technicians rather than from their doctors. While most licensed technicians are knowledgeable, they are not medical experts and should encourage clients to get medical help for nail injuries or complications. Additionally, failing to reach out to a doctor to discuss problem fingernails or toenails can delay a medical diagnosis and possibly put one’s health at risk. Since frail nails can indicate physical stress to the body which may include illness, surgery, medication, malnutrition and more, physicians are the best resource to examine, diagnose, and treat nail and nail-related health issues.

This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as a medical resource.

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