Know your health through your fingers

Your fingernails can provide clues to your overall health. The nails are present at the end of each finger tip on the dorsal surface. The main function of the nail is protection and it also helps for a firm grip for holding articles. It consists of a strong relatively flexible keratinous nail plate originating from the nail matrix. Under the nail plate there is a soft tissue called bed. Betweenthe skin and nail plate there is a nail fold or cuticle. Normal healthy nail is slight pink in color and the surface is convex from side to side. Finger nails grow 1 cm in three months and toe nails take 24 months for the same.

The importance of the nail color:

The color of the nails give some information about the general health and hygiene of a person. Nails are examined as a routine by all doctors to get some clues about underlying diseases. Just looking at nails we can make out the hygiene of a person. The abnormal nail may be congenital or due to some diseases. The causes for changes in the nail extend from simple reasons to life threatening diseases. Hence the examination by a doctor is essential for diagnosis .Some abnormal findings with probable causes can be diagnosed by merely looking at the nail’s color:

  • Nails become pale in anemia
  • Opaque white discoloration(leuconychia) is seen in chronic renal failure and nephrotic syndrome
  • Whitening is also seen in hypoalbuminaemia as in cirrhosis and kidney disorders.
  • Fungal infection causes black discoloration.
  • Nails become brown in kidney diseases and in decreased adrenal activity

Shape of the nail:

  • Oblong: You are harmonious and well balanced. 
  • Nail clubbing: Nail clubbing occurs when the tips of the fingers enlarge and the nails curve around the fingertips, usually over the course of years. Nail clubbing is sometimes the result of low oxygen in the blood and could be a sign of various types of lung disease. Nail clubbing is also associated with inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and AIDS.

Spoon nails (koilonychia) are soft nails that look scooped out. The depression usually is large enough to hold a drop of liquid. Often, spoon nails are a sign of iron deficiency anemia or a liver condition known as hemochromatosis, in which your body absorbs too much iron from the food you eat. Spoon nails can also be associated with heart disease and hypothyroidism.