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They say, “The eyes are the window to the soul”. But as it turns out, the nails may give us a glimpse of our inside and overall health. “Fingernails should be a healthy, pinkish color,” says Dr. Jeannette Graf, a clinical and research dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center. “But significant changes to the entire nail could represent something going on in the body.”
Of course, slight variations are normal and no reason for panic, but here’s a guide to what specific issues could mean.
Pitting – “Pitting of the nails could be psoriasis,” says Dr. Graf, adding that in some cases, it could be a symptom of a connective tissue disorder. If you see small depressions or irregular contours in your nail bed, it’s time to visit a dermatologist.
Clubbing – Surprisingly, the tips of your nails hold hints about your lungs. “Clubbing of the end of the fingers can be suggestive of pulmonary disease,” Dr. Graf explains. Colloquially known as Hippocratic fingers, this condition is easy to identify due to its “inflated” appearance. “If you look at the end of the nail and it’s thick and round, that’s clubbing,” Dr. Graf adds. Other signs of possible lung problems? Longitudinal, linear lesions in the nail bed or blood splinters.
Spoon-shaped nails – Koilonychia—indented or concave nails with ridges—could be a sign of iron-deficiency anemia, according to Dr. Graf. It may also suggest hemochromatosis, a liver disease caused by too much iron buildup. Uneven nails, she says, should also grab your attention: “In the absence of trauma or psoriasis, when the nail is uneven, it could also be a sign of thyroid problems.”
To be continued . . .
If you have any questions about your nails, skin or hair, please consult a dermatologist.
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