Skip to content

    Fingernail color and texture can reflect a wide range of medical conditions.

    Healthy Fingernails: Clues About Your Health

    Tips for Strong, Healthy Fingernails continued...

    He says he sometimes tries to guess if a person has anemia by looking at his or her nails. He explains that pale, whitish nail beds may indicate a low red blood cell count consistent with anemia.

    An iron deficiency can cause the nail bed to be thin and concave and have raised ridges.

    While most of Fox's patients don't come in to report nail problems, he routinely checks patients to make sure they have healthy fingernails. "The nails offer many little clues to what's going on inside you. Lupus patients get quirky, angular blood vessels in their nail folds. Psoriasis starts in the nails up to 10% of the time" and causes splitting and pitting of the nail bed.

    Heart disease can turn the nail beds red. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can show up in the nails through persistent nail-biting or picking, Fox says.

    Even common disorders like thyroid disease can cause abnormalities in the nail beds, producing dry, brittle nails that crack and split easily.

    He lists the following 10 examples of nail changes that could indicate a serious medical condition.

    A Guide toHealthy Fingernails:
    10 Possible Signs of Serious Conditions

    Nail Appearance

    Associated Condition

    White nails

    Liver diseases such as hepatitis

    Yellowish, thickened, slow-growing nails

    Lung diseases such as emphysema

    Yellowish nails with a slight blush at the base


    Half-white, half-pink nails

    Kidney disease

    Red nail beds

    Heart disease

    Pale or white nail beds


    Pitting or rippling of the nail surface

    Psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis

    "Clubbing," a painless increase in tissue around the ends of the fingers, or inversion of the nail

    Lung diseases

    Irregular red lines at the base of the nail fold

    Lupus or connective tissue disease

    Dark lines beneath the nail


    'Rarely the First Clue'

    But can a doctor truly detect undiagnosed heart disease or kidney problems by looking at your nails? American College of Physicians spokesman Christine Laine, MD, MPH, says it's not likely. She doesn't dispute the connection between nails and disease, but she cautions, "Nail changes are rarely the first clue of serious illness. In most instances, patients will manifest other signs or symptoms of disease before nail changes become evident. For example, it would be unusual that nail clubbing was the first thing a patient with emphysema noticed. Breathing difficulty probably would have been present already."

    Brush Up on Beauty

    URAC: Accredited Health Web Site TRUSTe online privacy certification HONcode Seal AdChoices