For signs of health, look no further than your hands.
As early as 400 B.C.E., Hippocrates taught that the nails reflect the condition of the inner body. It is true that abnormalities of the nails can often provide early clues to common medical problems or severe systemic diseases.
Take a few moments and examine your unpolished fingernails under a good light. You will gather a new appreciation for how your lifestyle affects your nails and overall health.
Nails grow at different rates due to age, nutrition, and health factors. Under the best of conditions, a nail grows about .004 inches a day or 1/8 of an inch each month. It takes about six months for a new nail to grow from cuticle to tip.
Use this diagnostic chart to look at and understand the condition of your nails:
Complete loss of nail: Trauma
Nail plate loose: Injury; nail psoriasis; fungal or bacterial infections; medicines; chemotherapy; thyroid disease; Raynaud’s phenomenon; lupus.
Wasting away of nails, nail loses luster and becomes smaller: Injury or disease.
Thickened nail plate: Poor circulation; fungal infection; heredity; mild, persistent trauma to the nail.
Pitted nails sometimes with yellow to brown “oil” spots: Eczema or psoriasis; hair loss condition.
Very soft nails: Contact with strong alkali; malnutrition; endocrine problems; chronic arthritis
Spoon-shaped nails: Iron deficiency; thyroid disease.
Club-like nails growing around swollen finger ends:
Chronic respiratory or heart problems; cirrhosis of the liver.
Injury; infection; nutrition.
Aging, poor absorption of vitamins and minerals; thyroid disease; kidney failure.
Brittle, split nails: Nail dryness; nails in contact with irritating substances (detergents, chemicals, polish remover); silica deficiency.
Infected nails (red, tender, swollen, pus):
Bacterial or yeast infection.
Overactive thyroid; genetics; self-induced trauma (habit tick).
Underactive thyroid; genetics.
Colorless: May indicate anemia.
Red or deep pink: Can indicate a tendency to poor peripheral circulation.
Blue: Blood may not be receiving adequate oxygen due to respiratory disorders, cardiovascular problems, or lupus erythermatosus.
Yellow: Could indicate fungus, diabetes, psoriasis, use of tetracycline, or heredity.
White, crumbly, soft: May be a result of a fungus infection.
Half white/half pink: May indicate fungal infection or, more seriously, kidney disease.
Small white patches: Usually a sign of injury to the nail matrix.
Purple or black: Usually due to trauma, or may also be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency. A brown or black streak that begins at the base of the nail and extends to its tip could be a diagnostic clue to a potentially dangerous melanoma. See your health care provider.