Have you ever noticed that when you are at your healthiest; you know, those periods of time where you are killing it physically due to going to the gym regularly or running or the line of work you are in is physical and you actually nourish yourself and rest properly your nails are beautiful and strong? Then there are the periods of time where you (I know you REALLY HATE IT ADMIT IT you were maybe even smoking cigarettes and drinking too much alcohol often with little sleep? You were eating garbage food and pushing your body to it’s limits A.k.a. ages 17-30 or so especially? Your nails did not look so good during those times. They were thin or brittle or peeling or breaking.

There are several “things” that can happen to nails that are caused by a health condition and can be a life saving signal of a need to go get looked at by a physician.

Pale fingernail beds on woman's hand

Pale Nails

Very pale nails can sometimes be a sign of serious illness, such as:

  • Anemia
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Liver disease
  • Malnutrition
Yellow fingernails on a woman's hand

Yellow Nails

One of the most common causes of yellow nails is a fungal infection. As the infection worsens, the nail bed may retract, and nails may thicken and crumble. In rare cases, yellow nails can indicate a more serious condition such as severe thyroid disease, lung disease, diabetes or psoriasis.

Split fingernail

Cracked or Split Nails

Dry, brittle nails that frequently crack or split have been linked to thyroid disease. Cracking or splitting combined with a yellowish hue is more likely due to a fungal infection.

Inflammation of the nail fold

Puffy Nail Fold

If the skin around the nail appears red and puffy, this is known as inflammation of the nail fold. It may be the result of lupus or another connective tissue disorder. Infection can also cause redness and inflammation of the nail bed.

Pale fingernail beds on woman's hand

Pale Nails

Very pale nails can sometimes be a sign of serious illness, such as:

  • Anemia
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Liver disease
  • Malnutrition

 

Fingernail beds that are almost completely white

White Nails

If the nails are mostly white with darker rims, this can indicate liver problems, such as hepatitis. In this image, you can see the fingers are also jaundiced, another sign of liver trouble.

Yellow fingernails on a woman's hand

Yellow Nails

One of the most common causes of yellow nails is a fungal infection. As the infection worsens, the nail bed may retract, and nails may thicken and crumble. In rare cases, yellow nails can indicate a more serious condition such as severe thyroid disease, lung disease, diabetes or psoriasis.

Essential acrocyanosis of the hands

Bluish Nails

Nails with a bluish tint can mean the body isn’t getting enough oxygen. This could indicate a lung problem, such as emphysema. Some heart problems can be associated with bluish nails.

fingernail pitting from psoriasis

Rippled Nails

If the nail surface is rippled or pitted, this may be an early sign of psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis. Discoloration of the nail is common; the skin under the nail can seem reddish-brown.

Split fingernail

Cracked or Split Nails

Dry, brittle nails that frequently crack or split have been linked to thyroid disease. Cracking or splitting combined with a yellowish hue is more likely due to a fungal infection.

Inflammation of the nail fold

Puffy Nail Fold

If the skin around the nail appears red and puffy, this is known as inflammation of the nail fold. It may be the result of lupus or another connective tissue disorder. Infection can also cause redness and inflammation of the nail fold.

Dark lines beneath the nail

Dark Lines Beneath the Nail

Dark lines beneath the nail should be investigated as soon as possible. They are sometimes caused by melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

Symptom: Ridges on nails

Vertical ridges are common as you get older and most people eventually get them.

“They’re kind of like wrinkles in the nail,” Rich said. She discourages patients from buffing or filing the ridges smooth because that thins the nail.

Deep horizontal ridges or depressions, known as Beau’s lines, are more alarming. They indicate something caused the nail to stop growing temporarily. Triggers can include high fever, chemotherapy, a serious illness, major surgery, blood transfusion, a car accident or any major stress to your system, Rich noted. You can have a series of parallel Beau’s lines if you experienced multiple episodes of stress.

Course of action: If you can’t link your deep horizontal ridges to a specific episode in your life, ask your doctor what the cause could be.

Vertical ridges are usually just a part of aging. If you want to cover them up, don’t buff, but use a ridge filler.

 Symptom: Small white spots on nails

Many people think the spots are related to a vitamin deficiency, but that’s a myth, Rich said. The condition, called punctate leukonychia, is actually due to some kind of minor trauma when the nail is being formed.

Course of action: Wait — the spots will vanish as the nails grow out. You’ll see them for a while because it takes about six months to grow a new fingernail from start to finish