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What do nails say about our health?

From manicures to pedicures, clear coats to sparkling designs, our nails make us feel pretty and confident. But did you know that our fingernails and toenails can play an important role in warning us of possible changes in overall health? Think of our fingernails and toenails as little alert warning systems to keep us on our toes for possible health concerns.

Have you ever wondered why your doctor might press down on your nails? They are taking a closer look to check blood circulation. Our nails give us great clues for any underlying changes. Not all changes that you see mean you have a health problem but may instead be part of natural aging.

How do I know if my nails are healthy?

The Mayo Clinic outlines the dos and don’ts for your nails, including what healthy nails should look like. They are smooth, with no pits or grooves, uniform in color and consistency, free of spots or discoloration. Sometimes fingernails develop harmless vertical ridges that tend to become more obvious as we age. Our fingernails can develop white lines or spots because of injury, but these eventually grow out with the nail.

What can cause our nails to change?

Many factors can cause changes in the look and feel of your nails. A 2019 Cleveland Clinic article lists some health conditions that can cause symptoms in the nails.

  • Stress
  • Moles or Melanoma
  • Arthritis
  • Psoriasis
  • Kidney Disease
  • Darier Disease

How do our nails alert us?

Watch for changes on or around your nails and take an in-depth look to rule out any serious health issues. Talk with your doctor if you are worried about any of these symptoms as described in best life for fingernail health.

  • Thick, brittle nails with visible nail ridges
  • Clubbing of the nails (where the nails look like upside-down spoons)
  • Tiny dents in the nails and white, yellow, or brown coloring
  • Brown or black band in the nail, often on the thumb or big toe on your dominant hand
  • Nail fungus
  • Yellow, thickened, sometimes fragile, ridged and brittle
  • Pale nails
  • Nails that appear half red, pink or brown
  • Blue in color
  • Looking too puffy and red
  • Swelling in the nail folds and skin around the nails
  • Lines in your fingernails

How to protect your nails during pregnancy?

It’s still the perfect time to pamper your fingers and toes while pregnant including trips to the salon. While pregnant, hormones may make your nails grow faster than ever, but this may cause some brittleness and groove formation.

To strengthen your nails during pregnancy, eat a balanced diet and make sure that your pregnancy vitamins contain biotin (B-complex vitamin) that has been shown to improve nail hardness, thickness, and firmness. Talk with your doctor about his/her recommendations for maintaining nail health.

If you use a salon, be sure the room is well-ventilated and avoid solvent-based products/some polishes, acrylic nails, and some polish removers. If you have artificial nails, watch for any green discoloration, which could be a sign of a bacterial infection. The best bet during pregnancy is to keep it real – go natural.

Keeping your fingernails and toenails happy is more than just applying a coat of polish. Take the time to make them shine with proactive care.


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The information on this site is intended to raise awareness and understanding of specific health issues. It should not be used for diagnosis or a substitute for health care by your physician.

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