Eight Health Warnings Your Fingernails May Be Sending

By Jesse Cannone

Are your fingernails healthy, or sending you a health warning?

Fingernails and disease don’t go together in most minds… but they should. Your fingernails can give you valuable health warnings and signal the presence of serious disease.

Take a good long look at your nails. Hold a hand level with your nose about a foot out from your face and scrutinize each one.

Look at the curves, dips, ridges, and grooves. Check out how thick or thin they are and if your nails are chipped or broken. Make a note of the color of the nail itself, the skin under it, and the skin around the nail.

Check your memory – have your nails always looked like this? Changes to your fingernails and disease onset are linked, so note any new developments. With this fresh view, compare what you see with this list of eight potential fingernail health warnings.

1. Discolored nails

A healthy fingernail should be pink with a touch of pinkish white (moons) near the base. If your nails are a dull color or streaked with other colors, you may have a serious hidden health problem.

  • Green nails are a sign of bacterial infection
  • Red streaks in your nail bed are a warning of a heart valve infection
  • Blueish nails signal low oxygen levels in your blood
  • Dull nails mean a vitamin deficiency
  • White nails may signal liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • Dark stripes at the top (Terry’s nails) are associated with aging and congestive heart failure

Scrub those nails clean and really look at your nail color! Given the “rainbow” of potential health challenges, you want to be sure you see what your fingers are saying.

2. Thick nails

Thick nails are not natural. You want your nails to be strong, but if they resemble talons or claws more than traditional nails watch out!

  • Thickened nails that are otherwise normal can signal lung disease
  • Thick and rough-textured nails can signal a fungal infection
  • Thick and separated nails may mean thyroid disease or psoriasis
  • Unusual thickness may also be a symptom of a circulation problem

Thickening nails are a change that should tune you in to other health symptoms you may be ignoring. Also watch out for allergic reactions to new medications which can show up as suddenly thick nails!

3. Split nails

Split nails aren’t just occasionally chipped or shut in doors. Instead, these nails seem to flake away in layers. Don’t blame frequent handwashing or nail polish for everything, especially since:

  • Split nails result from folic acid, Vitamin C, and protein deficiencies
  • Split nails combined with a pitted nail bed (base) can signal psoriasis, which begins in nails 10% of the time according to WebMD
  • Split nails may result from chronic malnutrition

Watch what you eat and check the psoriasis connection to fight back and pay more attention to your health overall.

4.Concave (Spoon) nails

Spoon fingernails signal a number of internal issues. To be considered full spoons, nails will be soft and curve up, forming a dip that is often big enough to hold water. Spoon nails signal:

  • Iron deficiency (usually from anemia)
  • Hemachromatosis, a liver disorder where your body absorbs too much iron
  • Heart disease
  • Hypothyroidism

Your fingernail and health challenges go hand in hand – for many people, clearing up their health issue results in their spoon nails returning back to normal.

5. Pitted nails

Small dips or holes in your nails can be a result of banging up your hands – or they could be a sign that you need to look more closely at your health. Nail pitting can signal:

  • Psoriasis
  • Connective tissue disorder
  • Alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss
  • Zinc deficiency (when the pit seems to form a line across the middle of your nail)

Watch your hand to separate natural dents and dings from real, lasting pits. The first will clear up quickly, but pits linked to disease linger.

6. Ridges

Nails should have smooth surfaces with almost imperceptible lines. Obvious ridge lines are a signal that something is up with your body. Some of the most common conditions associated with heavy ridge lines are:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • Lupus (for red lines at the base of your nails)

Don’t just buff away your ridges – hear their warning!

7. Dry, brittle nails

You don’t need lotion or cuticle oil. If your nails are dry and brittle, you should check your hormone levels and bacterial health.

  • Thyroid disease leads to brittle, dry fingernails that crack and split easily
  • Fungus can make nails dry or even crumbly, affecting 12% of all Americans according to the American Academy of Dermatology

Both thyroid and fungal issues take time to treat, so you won’t see a difference in the look of your fingernails for a full growth cycle.

8. Clubbed nails

If you have plump skin that seems to swell around the nail, or if your nails seem to have puffed around your fingers, they are said to be “clubbed”. Clubbed nails can mean:

  • Lung disease, especially if you already have trouble breathing
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Liver disease

Your fingernails won’t be the only signs of these diseases, but they can provide confirmation or motivation to seek medical care.

Don’t ignore your hands or the health warnings they send. Fingernails and disease are more closely related than you think – check your nails often to protect your health!

Article Sources

Trimarchi, M. Top 5 Things Your Nails Say About Your Health. Discovery Health.

Mayo Clinic. Slide Show: 7 Fingernail Problems Not to Ignore. 2011 Dec 8.

Rauh, S. Healthy Fingernails: Clues About Your Health. WebMD.

Danoff, R. Can Fingernails Indicate a Health Problem? MSN Health.

Wikipedia. Nail Disease.

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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Wake Up World or its staff.

  • Mick

    A lack of (or receded) lunula (the ‘moons’ of which the article speaks), as well as nail ridges is often a symptom of an ongoing vitamin B12 deficiency. Supplementing with large amounts of B12, over time, will often correct both of these problems. Mussels may be the best food source of B12 (very few plants contain B12, and most of those that do only contain trace amounts – nowhere near what you need). Wild-caught mussels are the best, as they have a much higher B12 compliment than farm raised.

    Should you choose to use bottled supplements, read the label! Almost all will be cyanocobalamin, which is an inferior form. Look for “Methylcobalamin B12”. You may very well have to go online to get this form. I went looking for a friend who had lost most of their lunula (nail moons), and had ridges that were not dramatic, but much more noticeable than they should be. None of the stores within a 100 mile radius sold anything other than the cyanocobalamin form.

    Don’t expect overnight results. It took 3 months of taking 1,000 milligrams of Methyl B12 before all their fingers had lunulas on them again. While they are now all visible, they still need to “grow back” more. The ridges have definitely softened, but they too still need to normalize further. From what I have seen, I would guess a total of 6 to 9 months of Methyl B12 at 1,000mg per day before they will be back where they belong. The fingernails didn’t suddenly manifest the indicating characteristics over night, so don’t expect them to recover over night.

    That said, the violent dizziness when sitting up or laying down which they were experiencing ceased completely within the first month and has not returned. They also have more energy during the day.

    Do some research and reading about all the things the body needs B12 for, and all the problems which can stem from a deficiency. You may be shocked.

  • Laurie

    What about flat nails? The arch in my nails occasionally falls and my nails go flat and become wider. Then, they return to having an arch. My two thumbs have had a dividing split down the center for several years now, when they used to be the strongest nails on my hands. I came out of remission with my RA and wonder if I actually have psoriatic RA instead of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • When I was interning for Dr. Mai Ling studying TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), that was exacting what we were looking for in patients… looking at the nails,eyes, tongue, and checking the 6 position pulses. It very accurate for the most part. Good post WUW!

  • Melissa

    What about white spots on nails, what does that mean? Zinc deficiency?

  • Deanna

    What about the nail beds turning a red color even the “moon” thats normally white. When I press on my nail the red color turns a deeper shade of red.

  • Jennifer

    What about nails that always pull away from the skin every time you wear gloves?

  • jude

    what about the centre of the nail splitting and keeps going no matter how much I cut it

    • John Waters

      For the last 20 years I have had longitudinal grooves on both thumb nails. When place thumb to thumb, the grooves seem to be on the same meridian. Fingers and toes are unaffected.I have a good balanced diet. Recently I started taking gelatin granules in my food and it appears to help somewhat. Maybe I will double the quantity and see how it helps.

  • Molly Roxx

    Tuberous Sclerosis can often be detected due to finger nail appearance too. Ridges. Bumps…

  • LLZ

    Thanks for this information Maxie 🙂 Do you know where one would find this supplement that you put under the tongue? Thanks in advance if you can get back here 🙂

    • darlin1951 .

      I am using from Health Food Store or Health Connect, phone 1-888-991-6968, or http://www.healthconnectsales.com, called B-12 WOW! includes b6, Folic Acid and Biotin, tastes great!