Your fingernails says a lot about your health.

We often take our nails for granted and so we don't think much about them. Some people might see it as a fashion statement while some might just utilize it as a tool to carry out daily life activities. However, there is one aspect of our nails that we shouldn't ignore; its ability to tell us about our health condition in a subtle way. Many things that occur in the nails can often signify systemic or skin problems so it is important for us to identify the signs given by our nails in order to detect any health abnormalities at an early stage. With that in mind, here are six health conditions that can also cause symptoms in the nails.

1. Stress

It may come as a surprise to you but your fingernails and toenails are closely related to your hair. Like your hair, your nails can also fall out after an illness or a prolonged period of stress. Often, regular periods of distress causes side-to-side lines to appear on your nails.

2. Moles or melanoma

Abnormal nail colour is one of the most common complaints received by dermatologists worldwide. Discolorations usually appear as lines that run from cuticle to the tip, and they can be anything from benign moles or cancerous melanomas. African-Americans and Asians are most likely to experience normal pigmentation changes that are related to ethnicity.

However, you should consult a dermatologist if the skin under the nail plate - the hard part of the nail which covers the fingertips - develops any brown colouring. These developments are always more of a concern if they affect a single finger instead of all. Brown lines that run into the cuticle could be a sign of melanoma. Ones that stop at or before the cuticle are likely caused by moles.

3. Arthritis

Small cysts that grow near or on the cuticles may arise with arthritis. These are benign (non-cancerous) and best addressed by a hand surgeon.

4. Psoriasis

This common skin condition is usually characterized by scaly, red patches, but it can also impact fingernails and toenails.

If you have yellow-red discoloring on your nail, often called an "oil-drop" or "salmon patch", you should consult your dermatologist. Here are some other symptoms that may indicate psoriasis:

Indentations: Nicks or pits on the nail plate, which is the hard part of the nail that covers the fingertips.

Beau's Lines: Lines that run side-to-side across the nail.

Skin thickening/nail loosening: Thickening of skin under the nail which can dislodge the nail (onycholysis) from the nail bed. This generally starts at the tip and work their way towards the cuticle.

White areas: Distinct white spots on the nails, also called leukonychia. (The cloudy white spots that sometimes appear on fingernails and toenails do not fall into the category, and aren’t cause for concern)

Black lines: Black lines running from tip to cuticle could be tiny clots called splinter hemorrhages or dilated and burst capillaries — potential symptoms of psoriasis.

Redness: The usually pale areas near the cuticle turn red, which could be caused by congested capillaries, another possible sign of psoriasis.

5. Kidney disease

Several nail changes can indicate the presence of acute or chronic disease. These are some of the common indicators:

  • Beau's Lines: These side-to-side lines can be a symptom of acute kidney disease.

  • Ridged nails: Also called koilonychia, rough nails with ridges can exist in the presence of kidney disease. These nails are also frequently spoon-shaped and concave, and they can point to iron-deficiency anemia.

  • White streaks/spots: Similar to psoriasis cases, distinct white streaks and spots on nails can point to chronic kidney disease.

6. Darier disease

Darier disease is a rare genetic disorder that causes a skin rash and appears mostly in adolescence. It shows up in the fingernails and toenails as broad, white or reddish stripes that run from cuticle to tip. A V-shaped nick near the fingertip can also indicate this condition.

In conclusion,

Preventing underlying conditions that impact your nails isn't always possible but you can care for your nails by staying hydrated and eating a well-balanced diet. Be sure you're consuming enough Vitamin B and zinc because those nutrients greatly strengthen your nails.

In many cases, changes to your nails can be normal and don't point to any undiagnosed health changes. However, if you have doubts, consulting a doctor is always the best option.

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