A quick glance at your nails can tell you a lot about your health. Brittle or spoon-shaped nails can be a sign of anaemia, while yellowing talons could be due to certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
And unfortunately, you might be able to spot some more serious conditions by peeping at your fingernails. Here are four signs you might need to book an appointment with your doctor:
1. You have a darker streak in your nails
Though this condition, known as melanonchlyia, can sometimes be harmless, it could also be a sign of subungual melanoma.
This is a rare skin cancer which occurs under the nails. As Medical News Today shared: “Symptoms include streaks on the nails, colour changes in or around the nail, a bruise under the nail that does not heal, and the nails separating from the nail bed.”
Though the condition might be benign, a study in the Indian Dermatology Online Journal says that “melanonychia is a very worrisome entity for most patients,” adding that “an early diagnosis of (the) malignant lesion is the key to favourable outcome”.
So, if you spot the streak, book yourself an appointment ASAP. Better safe than sorry, right?
2. Half-white and half-pink or brown nails
Also known as Lindsay’s nails, this condition is fairly often seen among those suffering from a chronic kidney condition.
Though, as this study suggests, they can occur in various diseases but also in healthy individuals – and they can be seen on fingernails or toenails.
One case report explains how the nail disorder is “characterised by nails that show the proximal portion of the nails white and the distal half red, pink, or brown, with a sharp line of demarcation between the two halves”.
The distinctive appearance comes from a mixture of anaemia (causing the pale bands) and melanin deposits (creating the darker sections). Though they’re not to be confused with...
3. White nails with a brown band on top
These are also known as Terry’s nails and can indicate liver disease or cirrhosis. The condition is also linked to ageing, as well as:
- peripheral vascular disease
- chronic kidney failure
- type 2 diabetes
- congestive heart failure
- skin conditions like vitiligo or tuberculoid leprosy
- viral hepatitis.
And, like Linday’s nails, they can appear on your toenails too (or even just one finger).
4. Horizontal ridges
These are also known as Beau’s lines and can indicate an interruption in your natural nail growth caused by things like chemotherapy and major illness.
The Mayo Clinic suggests they may be caused by things like:
- Diabetes that is not well controlled.
- Conditions in which narrowed blood vessels lower blood flow to the arms and legs. This is called peripheral artery disease.
- Illnesses that include a high fever, such as scarlet fever, measles, mumps and pneumonia.
- Not getting enough zinc.
- Some types of medicines, including retinoids and chemotherapy.
They can also be the result of an injury, such as dropping something heavy onto your nails, and can occur in fingernails and toenails.
If you’re concerned about any of these conditions, it might be worth a trip to the doctor. And if you have other nail issues, check this list from the NHS to see whether or not they’re worth getting looked at, too.