Health Topics

Healthy Living

October 2010
Scratching the Surface
What Your Nails Reveal About Your Health
Dr Jastinder K. Gill
Be them long or short, groomed or uncared for, your nails offer warning signs of various health conditions. In the last issue, B Positive advised that you’d do good to have a doctor look at your nails. Here’s how the doctor will be analysing your nails.

Do not be alarmed if you observe nail changes - visit your nearest dermatologist who can assess your condition, help you understand your problem (in case there is one) or reassure you of the benign condition.

Skin Deep
Your nails can be affected in many skin disorders like psoriasis (a chronic skin disease characterised by dry red patches covered with scales), lichen planus (an eruption of itchy, shiny, flat-topped purplish papules on the wrist, forearms and thighs), and dermatitis (inflammation of the skin, where it becomes itchy and develops blisters), etc. Sometimes the changes are first seen in the nails, later followed by skin changes.

Medical Conditions
Almost all medical conditions show changes in nails: the nails are affected in diabetes, kidney, liver, circulatory and lung disorders; mineral and vitamin deficiencies also reflect on nail appearance. The nail changes may be the first warning signs of an internal or systemic problem.

Shade Card
The wife’s insistence on “mera wala (my) pink” need not be only about the palette spread for the walls of your house – the colour of your nails actually gives your doctor plenty to chew on.

Disclaimer: Nail discolouration could be just because of nail polish too (in women, and in certain ‘metrosexual’ men).

7 Nail Signs
  1. In iron deficiency anaemia, the nails become pale, thin and spoon shaped (concave).
  2. Vitamin C deficiency leads to splitting and fraying of nails.
  3. Those with critical or acute illness can shed all their 20 nails.
  4. Certain drugs are known to change the nail colour on prolonged use. Anti malarials, for example, lead to darkening of the nails.
  5. In severe drug reaction one may lose all nails.
  6. Nail cancer can also happen – where the nails get discoloured, like in a melanoma (a type of skin cancer).
  7. Nails do show signs of ageing in the form of thinning and roughening of the nail plate.
Nail Colour What it Says
White or pale nails Anaemia, kidney and liver dysfunction
Dark nails Vitamin B12 deficiency
Red nails Heart ailments
Blue nails Oxygen deficiency
Yellow nails Liver disorders, diabetes and lymphatic blockage
Green nails Infection

Dr. Jastinder K. Gill is Sr Consultant - Dept of Dermatology and Cosmetology SPS Apollo Hospitals, Ludhiana
  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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