How Nail Color and Structure Can Reveal Your Health

Have you noticed changes in the appearance of your toenails lately? If you have, you might want to get them checked out.

Toenails, like any other part of the body should be routinely checked by your doctor. Discoloration or physical abnormalities of the toenails can indicate a lot about your health and can help provide insight into any medical conditions you already have, or ones not yet diagnosed. Basically, your nails are like mirrors of the inside of your body and can reflect problems in vital organs such as the heart, liver, lungs, as well as other skin conditions, and even cancer. 

Below are common toenail discolorations and abnormalities and what they can mean in terms of your health. Keep in mind that these abnormalities can also apply to fingernails.

Blue-ish/purplish nail color

If you notice a bluish tint in your toenails, it can indicate respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, pneumonia and more. Blue-tinted finger or toenails generally represent a lack of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen in the red blood cells. Many anemic people also experience blue nails, along with fatigue or anxiety. 

Nails with ridges, bumps that peel or crumble 

Have you noticed your nails are dry and brittle with visible whitish lines (ridges) spanning the length of the nails? Do your nails seem like they lift up easier, or even hurt for no apparent reason? Nails that do the above, as well as peel or break very easily, most often point to thyroid issues. White ridges normally result from a lack of zinc or iron, but if you have more of the above nail characteristics, and you’ve never had them looked at, it’s best to seek the advice of your doctor to rule out other diseases.

Yellowish nails

If your nails or toenails have a yellow color to them, this could represent an existing respiratory disease, diabetes, or liver problems. They can also be a result of chronic bronchitis, or if there is an issue with your lymphatic system that would cause swelling of the hands and the yellowish color. Or, yellow nails can result from nicotine if you’re a regular smoker. 

Dark pigmented lines under the nail

If you’ve noticed dark brown lines running down underneath your nail, it can mean your nail has recently experienced some trauma, like getting caught in the door or if you’ve hit it against something. However, if the dark brown line or lines appear out of the blue, the issue can be more serious. These lines are typically called longitudinal melanonychia and can be a sign of melanoma cancer in the nail. While it is more genetically common for darker-skinned individuals to have these lines, if you are a fair-skinned person and have developed them, particularly on the big toe, thumb, or index finger, it is best to seek medical advice immediately. 

Nail that detach from the nail bed

If your nails easily detach from the nail bed, you may have a condition called onycholysis – when your nails become easily loosened or detach from the nail bed.

Nails weak enough to detach can be a possible sign of injury, infection, thyroid disease, psoriasis, among other conditions. This nail abnormality can also be caused by drug and medicine interactions. If you’re unsure whether a detached nail is a sign of something more, consult with your doctor or dermatologist. 

As always, if your feet are hurting for any reason, make sure to call our Evanston office – Evanston Podiatric Surgeons at 847-475-9030, or Downtown Chicago office –Mag Mile Foot and Ankle Institute at 312-236-3507. Our care options for foot injuries and pain include some of the most cutting-edge procedures and technologies available!

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