Friday, March 9, 2012

Fingernails - A Picture of Health?

How healthy are your fingernails?  As an RHN I not only look at what's going on inside your body, I also pay attention to outward signs such as skin, hair and fingernails.  Fingernails can often give some vital clues about what is going on with a person's health.

Fingernails are hardened keratin, a tough protein that is waterproof and protects exposed skin surfaces.  While nails are translucent in color, because of the rich blood supply in the dermis layer, their color appears pink.  This is just one of the factors when differentiating disease: in someone with Raynauds, the nail beds lose all color due to the shut down of capillaries.  Bright red nail beds may indicate a temperature increase, as in fever. A blue tinge may indicate Cyanosis, which is low oxygen in circulation, or pneumonia. Some heart problems can be associated with bluish nails.

Take a good look at your nails - are there any white dots?  This can indicate a zinc or calcium deficiency.  Do they have noticeable lengthwise grooves?  This can indicate kidney disorder, iron deficiency or a tendency to have arthritis.  Lengthwise striations in the nails can also indicate malabsorption of nutrients, something I see quite often.  Someone may eat healthy, take supplements and work out but their body may still not be absorbing nutrients properly.  If our digestive system isn't working up to par, unfortunately, all that great work won't do our body a whole lot of good.

If the nail surface is rippled or pitted, this may be an early symptom of inflammatory arthritis or psoriasis. If you have pitting brown spots on your nails (nails resemble hammered brass) this can indicate psoriasis or alopecia areota and extra vitamin C, Folic acid and protein are needed.  Spoon shaped nails can indicate an iron deficiency, anemia or B12 deficiency.  Dry, brittle nails that crack or split easily have been linked to thyroid disease and cracking or splitting that is associated with a yellow tinge can indicate a fungal infection.

Dark lines or spotted brown or black discolorations that spread to fingers can indicate malignant melanoma - please see your doctor immediately if you have this.

Healthy fingernails should be smooth, without marks (such as white or brown dots or white streaks), have no indentations and have a little bit of a shine to them. They should also maintain a consistent pink color from the cuticle to the edge of the nail bed.

Although nail changes accompany many conditions, these changes are rarely the first sign.  Some nail abnormalities are just that - an abnormality.  If you've examined your fingernails and are concerned at all, please  see a doctor, a Naturopath or a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.  An RHN will work with you to improve your digestive system which can lead to an increase in overall health.  Be proactive with your body!  While the eyes may be the window to the soul, the fingernails are certainly a window to our health.

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