The last time you visited the doctor for a physical, he probably looked at your fingernails. Have you ever wondered why? Surely it wasnâ€™t to admire them or to gauge your grooming abilities. Rather, the shape, color and the condition of your fingernails can point to at least 40 different medical conditions that might, for a lack of note, go unnoticed in concurrence with one or more common symptoms like shortness of breath, or a simple cough.
While nobody can claim to be in perfect health, the fingernails of the relatively healthy are usually a bit curved, blush and smooth.
Here are some changes that doctors look for when examining your fingernails.
Contrary to popular belief, your fingers do not get cold in cold weather. Instead, your body responds to changes in temperature by drawing blood back to its core organs and away from extremities. If you notice that your fingernails are blue, it is not for a lack of circulation, but for a lack of oxygenation in the blood. This condition, coupled with a chronic cough or shortness of breath could point to chronic lung disease or heart failure. In the absence of a cough or shortness of breath, blue nails could point to toxicity, an exposure to toxic chemicalsÂ that actually poison your red blood cells. Nails that lack blush can point to anemia.
Most of us have seen little white dots under our nails. These are no cause for alarm.Â They’re called “leukonychia” and are extremely common. Â These white dots are usually the results of a past injury to the base of your nails. Â However, by the time the white spots emerge on your nail bed (roughly six weeks later) you probably won’t recall ever banging your fingernails. Â Sometimes, these spots can be a sign of an allergic reaction to an application to the nails like a polish. Â White dots will grow out with your fingernails over time which can take up to eight months.
If you have a heart murmur and a low fever, small hemorrhages called â€˜splintersâ€™ may arise in your fingernails to indicate sub-acute bacterial endocarditis, an infection of the heart valves. In the absence of the fever and heart murmur, these â€˜splintersâ€™ have no significance. In some cases, doctors may observe actual splinters in the nails. These are usually painless, and are common among those who work with their hands.
Most fingernails are slightly curved. When this curve becomes so defined as to resemble the back of a teaspoonâ€”also called â€˜clubbingâ€™â€”doctors take notice, and may begin testing for heart disease, lung disease, infections (long-standing) and certain types of cancer.
Nail fungus generally doesn’t point to anything but itself, but it can do a lot of damage to your nails. Here is a nail fungus treatment guide to home remedies for nail fungus.
This is a condition where tiny white lines, called Beauâ€™s lines, grow from the quick of the nail. These can indicate a number of conditions, including major infection, the start of chemotherapy and a past metabolic issue. To this extent, the longer the line is, the longer itâ€™s been since the problem occurred.
General rule of thumb, listen to what your nails are trying to tell you. It’s good practice to keep an eye on your nails and if you see unusual changes, consult your health care provider.
Sandy Getzky writes for ProveMyMeds.com.