Nailing Down The TruthMay 11, 2017
The state of your overall health can sometimes be found at your fingertips – literally! Take a look at your nails now. The nail plate (the hard, translucent part of the nail) is actually the result of new nail cells pushing out the older nail cells from the root of the nail; these older cells then flatten and harden because of its composition, which is mostly keratin, a hardened protein also found in skin and hair.
Sudden changes to your nails may be your body’s way of telling you to take notice of your health. Read on.
Appearance: Yellow nails
What It Could Mean: An early sign of diabetes. But more commonly, fungal infection is the cause of yellow nails – especially when they are combined with cracks or splits. It’s also worth noting that stained nails can be a result of smoking or overuse of nail lacquer.
Appearance: Clubbed nails (where the ends your nails and fingertips swell – think the shape of clubs or drumsticks)
What It Could Mean: This often signals serious health conditions, Often due to decrease in available oxygen in the body and could signal serious health conditions, including chronic lung disease, liver or kidney disease, heart disease, or cystic fibrosis.
Appearance: Spoon nails
What It Could Mean: Quite the opposite of clubbed nails, spoon nails are a condition where the nails appear concave, hence the term “spoon”. A major cause of spoon nails is iron deficiency anaemia, which can be treated by taking iron supplements. Spoon nails may also be hereditary, or caused by continual biting or picking of the nails.
Appearance: Dry, cracked or brittle nails
What It Could Mean: Barring lifestyle factors like overuse of nail polish remover, swimming, and frequent dishwashing without gloves, dry and brittle nails can be a side effect of hypothyroidism.
Appearance: Thick nails
What It Could Mean: We want our nails strong, but not unusually thick and rough! Thickened nails can be a sign of lung or thyroid diseases, though they can also be an allergic reaction to new medications.
Appearance: White spots
What It Could Mean: A sign of calcium deficiency … not! It’s one of the biggest health myths but, no, white spots on nails have got zero association with calcium. In fact, white spots on nails are often caused by low impacts or a symptom of a mild infection – not very significant at all!
Appearance: Pitted or ridged nails
What It Could Mean: If you notice tiny dents on your nail plate, it could be a symptom of psoriasis – up to 50% of patients with this condition experience nail pitting. It could also be caused by ageing.
Appearance: White nail beds
What It Could Mean: If you notice your nail beds suddenly looking rather pale to the point of white, it could be an early sign of diabetes or liver disease. Less seriously, white nail beds may be caused by a fungal infection, in which you may eventually lose the nail altogether as it softens over time.
As always, the above information is not intended as professional medical advice. Do consult with a healthcare professional for a proper and thorough diagnosis.
In the meantime, there are plenty of things you can do to care for your nails. But before we take a look at some examples, it’s important that we bust this myth: You can make your nails grow faster.
Sorry, but the fact is, there is no way to hurry the growth of your nails. On average, an adult’s fingernails grow about one-tenth of an inch per month. The trick is to strengthen them so they do not chip, split or break as easily as before, which gives the illusion that they are growing faster.
So, how can you strengthen your nails? First of all, when you do your dishes, make an effort to wear cotton-lined gloves so as to reduce the likelihood of your nails breaking. Also, keep your nails moisturised by moisturising your hands and nails each time after you wash your hands.
If you frequent nail parlours, remind the manicurist to leave your cuticles be – a common practice that is purely cosmetic, removing your cuticles means your nails are no longer protected from bacteria and fungus! And last but not the least, biotin – available as a dietary supplement or as an ingredient in vitamins – has been proven to strengthen brittle nails, making them less susceptible to splits.