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How to Use Fingernails as Signs of Health Problems

Updated July 19, 2017

We bite, file and paint our nails depending on the mood or occasion. But we often fail to do to our fingernails what is most pressing -- look at them for signs of health problems. While not usually the first sign that there is something wrong, varied abnormalities of the nail can signal it's time to see a doctor.

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  1. Examine your nails for variations in colour. According to WebMD, white nails can signify health issues related to the liver, such as hepatitis; while yellow nails can signal respiratory and lung problems or diabetes. Kidney problems are associated with nails that are half white and half pink.

  2. Look underneath the nail to the nail bed. Be aware of nail beds that are red or pale. Red nail beds have been linked to heart disease, while white or pale nail beds have been linked to anaemia, according to WebMD. Red stripes have been linked to lupus and connective tissue disease, while dark lines underneath the nail can signal melanoma.

  3. Rub your fingers over the nail. Ribbing of the nail can signal psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis. Lung diseases can be signalled by excess tissue near the ends of fingers, called "clubbing," according to WebMD. Clubbing is also associated with "inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease and liver conditions," according to the Mayo Clinic. Anemia can also be associated with "spooning" of the nails, where the edges of the nail tilt upward, resembling a spoon.

  4. Check to make sure the nail is still attached to the nail bed. If the nail is disconnected from the bed, it can signal a myriad of conditions, including malnutrition and uncontrolled diabetes.

  5. Tip

    Visit your doctor if you notice abnormalities of your nails. Be sure to note any additional symptoms as well as how long your nails have had colour and texture differences.

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About the Author

Marit Anderson

Marit Anderson has been a writer since 2005. She contributes to the website BlogCritics, where she serves as a fashion critic and editor. Her work has also appeared in various other online publications. Anderson holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in history and in humanities, media and cultural studies from Macalester College. She is currently a Juris Doctor candidate from Case Western School of Law.

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