Our bodies send us clues about our health in many ways, including messages from our nails. So check out their color, condition, shape and texture next time you remove your polish, and find out what yours are saying about your health over the last six months.
Dark Vertical Bands. Pigmented bands (dark lines of color running top to bottom; might be darker at the base of nail) are common in darker-skinned folks. So these could be benign moles in your nail bed. But a single new or changing band can be a malignant melanoma—a potentially deadly skin cancer. If you have bands and they continue to change or darken, see a dermatologist right away.
Horizontal Depressions. If you’ve suffered a recent injury to your nail, it might account for horizontal depression. But if you haven’t slammed a finger in a door lately, these depressions could signal something more serious: circulatory diseases, an illness associated with a high fever (like mumps or pneumonia) or uncontrolled diabetes. Head straight to the doctor if you’re not accident prone.
Spoon Nails. If your nails look scooped out, they’re spoon nails, and this condition is mostly likely caused by an iron deficiency. In some cases, spoon nails can be a sign of heart disease or hypothyroidism. Your doctor will perform blood tests to figure out what kind of deficiency is causing the problem. If it’s iron, you might need supplements. If your thyroid is the culprit, you’ll need to see an endocrinologist.
Weak, Brittle or Splitting. Do your nails break or bend easily? Can you peel them? Do they constantly split? These are weak, brittle or splitting nails. This could be caused by gel wraps or acrylic nails. Skip the manicures this month, and keep your nails moisturized. Brittle nails are also a sign of a vitamin deficiency.
White Dots. These might look like small white dots on the surface of the nail, but they can’t be buffed away. White dots on the nails are usually due to trauma. But if you still have them after allowing time for them to grow out, it could be a fungal infection.
Yellow Nails. A yellow tinge could be caused by anything—nail fungus, psoriasis, or nicotine or dark polish stains. If it’s a stain, soak your digits in denture cleaner. But if the yellowing persists, gets worse or is accompanied by pain, it could be a fungal infection. Yellowing is also seen in psoriasis patients, as a side effect of some medications. If it’s not a stain, talk to your doctor.