Fingernails can reveal greater health problems

Pamela Egan Practical Practitioner


By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE



Fingernails can reveal greater health problems



I have dry, brittle nails that crack easily. I’ve asked numerous healthcare providers for advice, but they minimize my problem. Any ideas or suggestions?

You may have heard the saying that you can tell a persons health by their eyes, well some say the same for fingernails. The fingernails protect the nerve-rich fingertips from injury. Nails are composed of protein, keratin and sulfur. Nail changes or abnormalities are often the result of nutritional deficiencies or specific conditions. Deficiencies produce the following changes in the nails:

Lack of vitamin A and calcium causes dryness and brittleness.

A vitamin B deficiency causes fragility, with horizontal and vertical ridges.

Insufficient intake of vitamin B12 leads to excessive dryness, very rounded and curved nail ends and darkened nails.

Lack of protein, folic acid and vitamin C causes hangnails. White bands are also an indication of protein deficiency.

If there is insufficient friendly bacteria (lactobacillus) present in the body, fungus forms under and around nails.

Lack of hydrochloric acid (HCL) contributes to splitting nails.

Spoon nails and/or vertical ridges may indicate iron deficiency.

Many disorders can show up in the nails. During a medical assessment, we often assess the nail beds. According to Prescription for Nutritional Healing, the following disorders are associated with the nails.

Thick nails may indicate that the vascular system is weakening and the blood is not circulating properly.

Lengthwise grooves or ridges may indicate a kidney disorder and is associated with aging. An iron deficiency may also cause ridges.

Brittle nails signify possible iron deficiency and thyroid problems, impaired kidney function and circulation problems.

Flat nails can denote Raynaud’s disease.

Yellow nails can indicate internal disorders long before other symptoms appear. Some of these are problems with the lymphatic system, respiratory disorders, diabetes and liver disorders.

White nails indicate possible liver or kidney disorders and /or anemia.

Dark nails and/or thin, flat, spoon-shaped nails are a sign of anemia.

Deep blue nail beds show pulmonary obstruction such as asthma or emphysema.

Nail bleeding is a sign of rheumatoid arthritis.

Pitted red-brown spots and frayed and split ends indicate psoriasis; Brittle, soft, shiny nails without a moon may indicate an overactive thyroid. White lines across the nail may indicate a liver disease.

Thinning nails may signal an itchy skin disease (lichen planus).

Nails separated from the nail bed may signify a thyroid disorder.

A half-white nail with dark spots on the tip points out a possible kidney disease.

Raised nails at the base with small white ends show a respiratory disorder such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis. This nail condition may also be hereditary.

Red skin at the bottom of the nail may indicate a connective tissue disorder.

Ridges can signify a possible infection such as the flu.

Downward curved nail ends may denote heart, liver or respiratory problems.

White lines show possible heart disease, high fever or arsenic poisoning. Ridges running up and down the nails indicate a tendency to develop arthritis. Nails that resemble hammered brass indicate a tendency toward partial or total hair loss.

Unusually wide, square nails can suggest a hormonal disorder, while white nails with pink near the tips are a sign of cirrhosis.

This article was originally published February 11, 2002 in The St. Tammany News. > Health Articles > Disease