Home Health & Wellness Nail Changes Can Signal Serious Health Issues

Nail Changes Can Signal Serious Health Issues

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Nail health is often overlooked in our daily self-care routines. But the condition of our nails can be a window into our overall health. Changes in the colour, texture, and shape of your nails can indicate underlying health issues that should not be ignored. Here are some nail signs that warrant attention and possibly a visit to your healthcare provider.


Discolouration of the nails can be an early sign of various health conditions. Yellow nails, for instance, can indicate fungal infections, lung issues, or even diabetes. When nails turn white, it may be a sign of liver disease, such as hepatitis. If you notice dark lines beneath your nails, it could be a sign of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.

Nail discolouration is often associated with systemic diseases and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. Ignoring these changes can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment of potentially serious conditions.

Changes in texture

Texture changes in your nails, such as pitting, ridges, or grooves, can also indicate health issues. Nail pitting, which appears as small depressions on the nail surface, is often associated with psoriasis or alopecia areata. Vertical ridges are usually harmless and a part of ageing, but horizontal ridges, known as Beau’s lines, can signal a disruption in nail growth due to illness or severe stress.

A 2015 study highlights the importance of recognising these changes, as they can reflect underlying systemic issues. For instance, Beau’s lines can appear after a high fever, indicating that the body was under significant stress during the period when the nail was growing.

Shape abnormalities

Changes in the shape of your nails can also be a cause for concern. Clubbing, where the tips of the fingers enlarge and the nails curve around the fingertips, is often a sign of low oxygen levels in the blood and can be associated with lung disease or cardiovascular problems. Spoon nails, which are soft and shaped like a spoon, can be a sign of iron deficiency anaemia.

It is essential to monitor these changes and seek medical advice if you notice any abnormalities. Timely diagnosis and treatment of the underlying causes can prevent further complications.

Brittle or weak nails

Brittle or weak nails can be a sign of nutritional deficiencies or exposure to harsh chemicals. A diet lacking in essential vitamins and minerals, such as biotin, can lead to brittle nails. Additionally, frequent use of nail polish remover or exposure to water and detergents can weaken the nails over time.

Research suggests that biotin supplements can improve nail strength in individuals with brittle nail syndrome. But it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.

Nail separation

Injury, infection, or allergic reactions are all potential causes of nail separation, where the nail separates from the nail bed. This condition, known as onycholysis, can also be associated with thyroid disease or psoriasis.

Addressing the underlying cause of nail separation is crucial to preventing further damage and potential infections. Keeping your nails trimmed and avoiding harsh chemicals can help reduce the risk of onycholysis.

Inflammation and redness

Inflammation and redness around the nail bed can be signs of infection or inflammation. Typically, fungi or bacteria are to blame for paronychia, an infection of the nail folds. This condition can lead to pain, swelling, and pus-filled lesions around the nail.

If you notice persistent redness and swelling, it is important to seek medical attention. Early treatment with appropriate antifungal or antibacterial medications can prevent the infection from spreading and causing further complications.


Paying attention to the signs your nails provide can be a crucial step in maintaining your overall health. Changes in colour, texture, shape, and strength of your nails can indicate underlying health issues that require medical attention. Regularly examining your nails and seeking professional advice when changes occur can lead to early diagnosis and treatment, ultimately promoting better health outcomes.

Alia Kader, MD is a health columnist and expert in dermatology, with a passion for educating the public on the importance of skin and nail health.

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