Healthy fingernails do not just look good. Your fingernail health can provide important clues about serious health problems and nutritional deficiencies. Learn how to read your fingernails without reading too much into them.
Healthy Fingernails Overview:
The appearance of your fingernails can be connected to health problems and nutritional deficiencies, but there’s no need to panic. Nail strength and appearance is more likely to be affected by relatively harmless factors like aging, exposure to hot water, or using your nails as tools. Look for these obvious causes or a local infection first before suspecting a serious systemic disease.
Fingernail Health and Serious Health Problems:
While you should not go overboard, it is valuable for doctors to check your fingernails. WebMD has a guide to healthy fingernails with 10 signs to look for in your nail appearance that can indicate serious medical conditions. These include red nail beds in the case of heart disease, or dark lines under the nail in the case of melanoma. You should report any changes you notice in nail strength or appearance to your doctor. Note that fine vertical ridges often develop with age and are usually not a cause for concern. Nails also tend to thin with age as the growth rate slows down.
Healthy Fingernails and Nutritional Deficiencies:
Nail strength and appearance can be very valuable in helping to identify and correct some nutritional deficiencies because fingernail health depends on a healthy diet. Two good examples of this are Vitamin D deficiency and iron deficiency. Many seniors suffer from Vitamin D deficiency which increases their risk for falls, broken bones, and depression. Studies show that Vitamin D levels are connected to fingernail thickness so this may provide helpful clues for detecting nutritional deficiencies and monitoring responses to treatment. In menstruating women, iron deficiency is very common. Fingernails can reveal signs of iron deficiency and anemia if the nail bed is thin and concave with raised ridges and the nails show signs of pallor. Women can consult their doctors to see if they would benefit from iron supplements. Calcium supplements can also help to improve nail strength as well as healthy bones. Unfortunately, the myth about eating Jell-O for nail health is just a myth. Eating gelatin does nothing for nail strength.
Healthy fingernails are a valuable tool for assessing your overall health, and your doctor can help you identify any real causes for concern.
Sources: WebMD, MayoClinic, US National Institutes of Health, DrDonnica.com