Jawing About (Finger and Toe) Nails

You may not realize this, but your finger and toenails serve a purpose beyond being cosmetically pleasing. Finger and toenails help us to pick up and manipulate objects and provide support for tissue in the fingers and toes. Often they can reflect the general state of your body’s health.

Healthy Nails

Healthy nails are pinkish red in color. They are hard but they retain a little moisture to aid with flexibility. A lack of moisture can lead to dry, brittle nails that crack easily. Healthy nails have a smooth texture, although lines that run down the length of the nail are common. They should be firmly attached to the nail bed and stop at the top of your finger without curving around.

Nail Problems

The condition of your finger and toenails can indicate other health issues. Here are some things to looks for and what those things may mean:

  • Pale nails – May be indicative of anemia, congestive heart failure, liver disease, or malnutrition.
  • White nails – May be a signpost for liver problems.
  • Yellow nails – Typically accompany fungal infections. Can be an indication of thyroid disease, lung disease, diabetes, or psoriasis.
  • Bluish nails – Caused by a lack of oxygen. Can be caused by lung infections like pneumonia or heart issues.
  • Rippled or pitted nails – Could be indicative of psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis.
  • Cracked or split nails – An indicator of possible thyroid disease. When nails are cracked and yellow-hued, it is likely due to a fungal infection.
  • Puffy Nail Fold – Inflamed, puffy nail fold (the skin around the edge of the nail) can accompany lupus or connective tissue diseases, or infection.
  • Dark lines beneath the nail – Sometimes these are caused by melanoma.
  • Nail clubbing – A condition where the tips of the fingers enlarge and the nails curve around the fingertips. A result of low oxygen. Also indicative of inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, or AIDS.
  • Spoon nails – Soft, scooped-out nails. Depressions in the nail are big enough to hold a small volume of liquid. A sign of iron deficiency anemia, hemochromatosis, heart disease, or hypothyroidism.
  • Beau’s lines – Indentations that run across the grain of the nail. Associated with uncontrolled diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, scarlet fever, measles, mumps pneumonia, or zinc deficiency.
  • Nail separation – The nail pulls away from the nail bed. Can be caused by a reaction to drugs or a consumer product. Also caused by thyroid disease or psoriasis.


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