When I was a kid, my nails used to have white spots in the middle that come and go. I didn’t mind them back then, thinking they may be just because of constant nail polish use or slamming my nails absentmindedly somewhere. But early in my teens, I researched about it and was surprised to know that the white spots on nails show high sugar content in the body. Having diabetes in our family health background, it scared me and pushed me to maintain my blood sugar properly. While I don’t get them anymore as I reached high school, it still is scary to think how easily we dismiss nail conditions and what they could mean.
Our nails are actually small windows that allow us to peek into our health condition. Strong, pinkish nail beds are what are considered ‘normal’ as they indicate normal blood flow and condition. Thus, if you see your nails becoming discolored or brittle, they may be indicating certain health conditions.
What you see: Blue nails
What it may be: Lack of oxygen causes nails to turn blue. This is often experienced during extremely cold weather, or even when you’re just holding something cold, as the temperature makes blood vessels constrict and not enough oxygen gets on the nails. Abnormal hemoglobin (protein in our blood cells that carry oxygen) may also cause blue nails.
What you see: Brittle nails
What it may be: Your nails may be constantly exposed to harsh chemicals (such as acetone, detergents, or bleach) or often soaked in water, then exposed to heat which causes the nails to become dry and brittle. This may also be a sign of vitamin A, B, or C deficiency and fungal infection.
What you see: Dark, discolored nails
What it may be: Trauma to the nails is often associated with dark discoloration. This is often experienced when you stub your toe or slam a door on your fingers, ending up with dark, red spots under your fingernails where blood has clotted. However, these spots may also be signs of fungal infections or melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
What you see:Thickening nails
What it may be: As we age, nails normally thicken due to the piling up of nail cells. The rate as to which they grow thick is slower and they are constantly filed and buffed to be made thinner. However, nails growing thick may also be caused by trauma or fungal infection. Toenails, for example, are prone to infections as they often get wet and are constricted inside shoes.
What you see: Yellow nails
What it may be: Regular wearing of nail polish is one of the main causes of having yellowish nails. The leftover dyes, especially of dark nail polishes, turn the nails yellow. Frequent smokers may also suffer from it as nicotine may stain the nails. However, they may also be related to respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis or thyroid disease.
What you see: Pitted or dented nails
What it may be: Nails with pits or dents are commonly related to those with the skin condition psoriasis. The skin changes affect the nails, forming ridges and irregular contours. In some cases, calcium deficiency may also cause the formation of ridges on the nails.
It is still encouraged, however, to get in touch with a specialist should your nails appear different from what is considered healthy. While the Internet carries a number of good reads that can tell you what’s wrong based on what you see on or under your nails, it is better and safer if the actual diagnosis and treatment comes from a doctor as nails are only a single indicator of something that can be much more serious.