Nail color and texture can reflect a wide range of medical conditions.
Take a good look at your fingernails and you may notice subtle variations in
the texture or color - a touch of white here, a rosy tinge there, perhaps some
rippling or bumps in the surface. These imperfections may not look like much to
you, but to the trained eye they can provide valuable clues about your overall
"Just like the eyes are the window to the soul, so are the nails," says
Tamara Lior, MD, a dermatologist with Cleveland Clinic Florida. Lior says she
once convinced a patient to have his lungs checked after noticing a bluish tint
to his nails, a sign that he wasn't getting enough oxygen. Sure enough, he had
fluid in his lungs.
Warning signs for many other conditions, from hepatitis to heart
disease, may also appear in the nails, according to Joshua Fox, MD,
director of Advanced Dermatology and a spokesman for the American Academy of
Dermatology. "Changes in the nails can be a sign of a local disease like a
fungus infection or a sign of a systemic disease like lupus or anemia," Fox tells
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
While most of Fox's patients don't come in to report nail problems, he often
checks their nails anyway. "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 abnormities 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.
What Your Nails Say About Your
10 Possible Signs of Serious Conditions