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What your nails says about you

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By Chioma Obinna
Many people these days give more emphasis on well- manicured nails. But how healthy are these nails? Take a good look at your fingernails and you may notice subtle variations in the texture or colour – a touch of white here, a rosy tinge there, perhaps some rippling or bumps in the surface. Problems in the liver, lungs, and heart can show up in your nails.

These imperfections may not look like much to you, but experts say they can provide valuable clues about an individuals overall health.

According to dermatologists, just like the eyes are the window to the soul, so are the nails.

Finger nails — composed of laminated layers of a protein called keratin — grow from the area at the base of the nail under your cuticle. As new cells grow, older cells become hard and compacted and are eventually pushed out toward your fingertips.

Healthy nails are smooth, without ridges or grooves. They are uniform in colour and consistency and free of spots or discoloration. Nails can develop harmless conditions, such as vertical ridges that run from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. Vertical ridges become more prominent with age. Nails can also develop white lines or spots due to injury, but these eventually grow out with the nail. However, not all nail conditions are normal, some are signs of diseases that require medical attention.

According to medical experts an iron deficiency can cause the nail bed to be thin and concave and have raised ridges. The nails offer many little clues to what’s going on inside you. Medical conditions such as psoriasis starts in the nails up to 10 per cent of the time and causes splitting and pitting of the nail bed.

Heart disease can turn the nail beds red. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can show up in the nails through persistent nail-biting or picking. Even common disorders like thyroid disease can cause abnormities in the nail beds, producing dry, brittle nails that crack and split easily.

Here are 10 possible signs of serious medical conditions:

White nails: If the nails are mostly white with darker rims, this can indicate liver problems, such as hepatitis.

Yellow nails: One of the most common causes of yellow nails is a fungal infection. As the infection worsens, the nail bed may retract, and nails may thicken and crumble. In rare cases, yellow nails can indicate a more serious condition such as severe thyroid disease, lung disease, diabetes or psoriasis.

Bluish nails: Nails with a bluish tint can mean the body isn’t getting enough oxygen. This could indicate an infection in the lungs, such as pneumonia. Some heart problems can be associated with bluish nails.

Rippled nails: If the nail surface is rippled or pitted, this may be an early sign of psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis. Discoloration of the nail is common; the skin under the nail can seem reddish-brown.

Cracked or split nails: Dry, brittle nails that frequently crack or split have been linked to thyroid disease. Cracking or splitting combined with a yellowish hue is more likely due to a fungal infection.

Puffy Nail Fold: If the skin around the nail appears red and puffy, this is known as inflammation of the nail fold. It may be the result of lupus or another connective tissue disorder. Infection can also cause redness and inflammation of the nail fold.

Dark Lines Beneath the Nail: Dark lines beneath the nail should be investigated as soon as possible. They are sometimes caused by melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

Gnawed Nails: Biting your nails may be nothing more than an old habit, but in some cases it’s a sign of persistent anxiety that could benefit from treatment. Nail biting or picking has also been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you can’t stop, it is worth discussing with your doctor.

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