The appearance of my nails, what does it say about my health?

The nail appearance it can reveal many things about a person. The way they are painted, for example, is a way of knowing their aesthetic tastes, especially from the fashions increasingly sophisticated (and risky) targeting this part of the body. In fact, estimates indicate that the market for nail polishes and other cosmetics will move more than 15,000 million dollars in 2024.

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But beyond the way they are painted, what the nails say about the health of the person is much more important. Healthy nails -Strong, uniform pink color and with a small, lighter crescent at the base, called a lunula – they speak of good general health and good levels of nutrition and hydration.

On the other hand, when they present different shades or irregularities in their shape and texture, they can be a sign of health problems. Some of the most common nail alterations are listed below.

1. Yellowish nails

The appearance of a yellowish tone it is one of the most common abnormalities on the nail surface. It can respond to a wide variety of causes: from the use of glazes with formaldehyde and smoking –Nicotine and tar from cigarettes is mainly impregnated in the index and middle fingers– even liver problems.

They can also be due to the presence of fungi or nutritional problems, such as a vitamin deficiency group B or a high consumption of vitamin A supplements or foods with beta-carotene (oranges, pumpkins and carrots, among others).

2. White spots

There is a belief that white spots indicate a lack of calcium in the body, but in general it is not. Most of the time, the presence of these spots on the nails – a phenomenon known as leukonychia – is the result of any injury and it has no other consequences.

However, if there are many spots on different nails, it could be a sign of liver or kidney problems or a lack of nutrients such as albumin or zinc.

3. Brittle and brittle

The brittle nails they can also have multiple causes. The most frequent is a poor diet (in particular, a lack of biotin or other B vitamins and also vitamin D) or poor hydration. It is also common for nails to be weakened by contact with abrasive substances, such as low-quality cleaning products or cosmetics.

Other possible reasons for brittle nails include high stress situations, fungal infections, liver or kidney problems, and diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis, hypothyroidism, and nail psoriasis (on the nails). In addition, the nails become more fragile as a result of aging.

4. Greenish or bluish nails

In general, when the nails take on a greenish hue, they are betraying the presence of fungi or some bacterial infection. The bluish, purple or purple appearance, meanwhile, reveals low oxygen levels in the blood, generally caused by circulation, heart, or lung problemssuch as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

5. Stretch marks and roughness

The grooves can be longitudinal or transverse. The former usually appear with age and do not represent any pathology. Those that go from side to side, on the other hand, can be due to several problems. They often reveal the existence of nail psoriasis. It is estimated that the 2.3% of the population Spanish suffers from psoriasis, and this disease attacks the nails in one of every two cases.

Stretch marks and other roughness in the nails – especially small indentations that appear to have been practiced with pins– They can also be due to acute fever, nutritional disorders, kidney problems or eczema.

Much less frequently, they are the result of rheumatic problems, such as Reiter’s syndrome, or alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that, in addition to causing hair loss, affects the nails.

6. Detached from the skin

The onycholysis It is the process in which the nails become weak, soften and separate from the skin. In many cases it originates from the contact of the fingers with irritating substances, such as detergents, very aggressive cosmetics or raw or acidic foods, such as citrus fruits.

It is also possible that the cause is a fungal infection (fungus), psoriasis or warts. Another option is that the nails become detached due to a disease in the thyroid gland or due to the use of certain medications.

7. Coilonychia or spoon nails

In this case, the nails flatten, present cavities or adopt a curvature contrary to normal, with the central part sunken and the sides raised. In general, this problem is associated with iron deficiency anemia, that is, the iron deficiency in the body.

8. Transverse grooves

The grooves that run through the nail from side to side are known as beau lines. They generally appear after having suffered certain diseases (kidney failure, diabetes), an operation, infections or some types of cancer.

They can also appear after an injury to the nail, being exposed to very low temperatures or as a result of nutritional problems. What those grooves represent is a disruption in nail growth. When the body returns to normal, the nails regenerate and Beau’s lines disappear.

Tips for healthy nails

  • Keep them clean. Nail hygiene is essential to reduce the likelihood of problems, especially when taking into account the large amount of bacteria and other microorganisms that lodge in the subungual area (the part of contact between the nail and the skin), even though we wash our hands frequently.
  • Limit contact with water. Humidity creates an environment that is more conducive to the growth of microbes. In addition, frequent contact with water softens and weakens the nails, so they should be dry as long as possible.
  • Eat and hydrate well. As we have noted, many of the nail problems stem from nutritional deficiencies. A balanced and healthy diet helps keep them healthy. And in addition to drinking plenty of water, the same creams that are used for the hands keep the nails hydrated.
  • Cut them straight and do not bite them. When cutting the nails, you must try to follow a smooth curve without irregularities, as these also favor the presence of bacteria. For those who practice onychophagia (the compulsive habit of biting their nails), it is recommended that find a way to stop doing it.
  • Avoid poor quality cosmetics. Many of these products include abrasive substances that not only affect the aesthetic appearance of the nails, but also weaken them and favor the action of bacteria and fungi.
  • Be attentive to their signals. The changes in color, shape and texture are “messages” with which the nails alert that something may be happening. Paying attention to these messages is a key to acting against problems as soon as possible and thereby protecting the health of the nails and the whole organism.

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