“Nails often reflect our general state of health,” according to the American Academy of Dermatology,[i] so if you haven’t paid much attention to yours lately, now would be a good time to start.
Changes in your toenails’ color, shape or thickness can all indicate a problem that’s far more than aesthetic. When using your nails to help determine your overall health, keep in mind that changes indicative of a systemic disease will usually impact more than one nail.
Interestingly, toenails grow at a rate of .03 millimeters (mm) per day (fingernails grow slightly faster at .1 mm/day), which means you can estimate when the systemic condition or insult may have occurred by measuring the distance between your cuticle and the leading edge of any pigmentation change.[ii]
Here are 14 of the top toenail health signs to be aware of.[iii]
What are Your Toenails Saying About Your Health?
14. Half and Half Toenails
If the bottom half of your nail is white and the top half pink, it’s often a sign of kidney disease or kidney failure.
13. Splinter Hemorrhage
Tiny blood clots under your toenails, which typically appear as small vertical red lines and look like a splinter, may be associated with rheumatoid arthritis, peptic ulcer disease, malignancies, bacterial endocarditis, trauma to the nail or psoriasis. They also sometimes occur due to pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives.
12. Toenail Pitting
Small pits on the surface of your nail can be signs of psoriasis, malnutrition, respiratory disease or, in some cases, connective tissue disorders or alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease.
11. Horizontal Indentations (Beau’s lines)
A deep indentation that runs across your toenail may be a warning sign for uncontrolled diabetes or peripheral vascular disease. They also sometimes occur due to high fever (such as from scarlet fever, pneumonia, measles or mumps) or due to a zinc deficiency.
10. Toenail Separation
If your nail separates or loosens from the nail bed, it may be due to thyroid disease, hyperthyroidism or psoriasis. Certain medications as well as nail hardeners and adhesives can also cause nail separation, as can an injury or infection.
9. Pale or White Toenails
Healthy nails are generally pink in color. If yours are very pale, almost white, it could be a sign of anemia, congestive heart failure, liver disease or malnutrition. Very white nails are often a sign of liver problems, including hepatitis.
8. Yellow Toenails
Fungal infections often cause yellow nails. If your nails are also thick and crumbling, this is likely also due to fungus. However, if a fungal infection isn’t the problem, less common causes of yellow nails include thyroid disease, lung or respiratory disease, diabetes or psoriasis.
7. Blue Toenails
This can be a sign of a lack of oxygen, possibly due to a heart problem, lung infection or pneumonia. Silver poisoning can also cause blue nails.
6. Clubbing of the Toenails
With this condition, the tips of your toes may become enlarged while the nail will curve downward around the tip and may also seem to “float” in the nail bed. Clubbing may be a sign of lung cancer or other heart and lung conditions, including chronic lung infections or infectious endocarditis, an infection of the lining of the heart chambers and heart valves. It can also be a sign of inflammatory bowel disease.
5. Spoon Toenails
Nails that curve upward around the edges, like a spoon, can indicate iron-deficiency anemia, hemochromatosis (excess iron absorption), heart disease or hypothyroidism.
4. Mees’ Lines
This refers to discolored lines that cross the width of your toenails. Mees’ lines can be a sign of arsenic poisoning, Hodgkin’s disease, malaria, leprosy, carbon monoxide poisoning or other systemic problems.
3. Cracking and Splitting Toenails
If your nails are especially dry and prone to frequent cracks and splitting, it can be due to a fungal infection or thyroid disease.
2. White With a Dark Line at the Tip (Terry’s Nails)
A curved horizontal line near the tip of a white nail can signal liver disease, congestive heart failure or diabetes, as well as hyperthyroidism or malnutrition. It can also simply be associated with aging.
1. Dark Streaks
Dark streaks under your nail can be a sign of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
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