An Overall View Of Your Health Seen Through Nail Problems

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An Overall View Of Your Health Seen Through Nail Problems

Your body is an incredible machine in the way it performs and when you pay close attention to the subtle changes that occur, can help you to identify whats going on in your body.

Awareness of SELF plays an important role in maintaining good health and not ignoring changes that occur in your body.

If you want an overview of your health, have a look at your fingernails and toenails as they can paint a picture of your overall health.

Most nail abnormalities are due to trauma or a fungal infection, however, sometimes they may indicate more severe systemic conditions.

Examples of nail conditions that may indicate systemic conditions:

 Nail Clubbing

Nail clubbing is a deformity of the finger or toenails associated with a number of diseases, mostly of the lungs and heart.

Clubbing can be harmless and run in families, however if they occur suddenly may be a sign of many medical conditions, including:

  • long-term lung disease or heart disease, such as lung cancer, bronchiectasis, bacterial endocarditis or congenital heart disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Polycythaemia, a condition where the blood is too thick.
  • Cirrhosis (liver damage)
  • Bowel or stomach cancer
  • Hodgkin’s disease

Fore more in-depth information on nail clubbing, read here.

Nail clubbing

White Nails

Totally white nails present since birth may be an inherited condition with no affect to general health. If it occurs later in life, it may be a sign of several systemic diseases, including:


  • Cirrhosis (liver damage and scarring) or kidney disease.
  • Malnutrition
  • Diabetes
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Severe anaemia 

White Nails


Nail Pitting

Nail pitting or small dents on the surface of your nails can be a sign of the following diseases:


Nail Pitting

Half And Half Nails

Half and half nails (also known as “Lindsay’s nails”) show the top half of the nail white and the bottom half red, pink, or brown, with a sharp line of demarcation between the two halves.

It’s estimated up to 40% of people with kidney failure have “half-and-half” nails.

  • Kidney failure
  • AIDS
  • Side effect of chemotherapy

Half and Half Nails


Yellow Nails

Yellow discolouration of the nails usually occurs as a result of a nail fungal infection or psoriasis of the nail.


Other causes of a yellow nail include:

  • Lymphoedema
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin) due to liver disease
  • Diabetes, liver problems or respiratory trouble
  • Inflammation of the thyroid gland
  • Wearing nail polish for too long periods of time
Yellow Nail Syndrome

Dark Brown Or Black Defined Lines Down The Nail

If you see a dark stripe or line running down the nail, it is not something to ignore as it may sometimes be a form of skin cancer that affects the nail bed, called subungual melanoma.


Melanoma of the nail usually affects either a thumb nail or great toenail but any finger or toenail may be involved.

It’s important that your doctor or dermatologist checks it to rule out melanoma.

There is one exception if you are dark skinned and have dark stripes running down your nail. This is known as linear melononychia and is quite common in over 77% of the black population and is perfectly normal.

As a precaution or if you’re not sure, get it looked at by your doctor.

subungual melanoma

Beau’s Lines (Grooves across the nails)

Grooves or deep lines that go across the nail horizontally are known as Beau’s Lines. They may look like indentations or ridges across the nail plate.

These grooves may be a sign of:

  • Trauma or injury to the nail plate
  • Side effect of chemotherapy
  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • Raynaud’s disease
  • Malnutrition
  • A previous illness (heart attack, liver disease, measles, mumps), the lines form at the time of the illness
Beau's Lines


Split, Brittle Or Cracked Nails

Nails that are brittle, split or peel into layers, affect as much as 20 percent of the population.

Here are a few possible causes:

  • Trauma
  • Nail biting (yes some people do bite their toenails…) and peeling nails off
  • Iron deficiency
  • Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
  • Chemicals, including household cleaners can weaken the nails
Brittle cracked peeling nails

Bluish Nails

Blue nails can be a sign of various disorders and should be checked out and one that you should stay alert to. When oxygen levels are low, blood turns blue-red and can show signs of a blue nail.

Very cold temperatures can temporarily slow the flow of blood through the skin leading to the bluish colour, but this usually goes away when you warm up.

Other disorders that may lead to bluish nails:

  • Raynaud’s disease
  • Long standing lung and breathing problems, including emphysema, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic bronchitis.
  • Lack of oxygen
  • Subungual haematoma (blood under the nail from trauma)
  • Overdoses of certain drugs (narcotics, benzodiazepines, and some sedatives)
  • Severe anaemia
Bluish nails

Spoon Shaped Nails (koilonychia)

If your nails curve inward and gives an appearance of a spoon shaped nail, this is known as koilonychia. Sometime the curvature can be deep enough to hold a water droplet.

Spoon shaped nails can be associated with the following disorders:

  • Raynaud’s disease
  • Lupus erythmatosous (auto-immune condition)
  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Hemochromotosis (too much iron in the body)
  • Trauma
  • Exposure to certain solvents
  • Heart disease
Spoon shaped nails Koilonychia



Splinter Haemorrhage Nails

Splinter haemorrhages are tiny blood clots that tend to run vertically under the nails.

Splinter haemorrhages are not specific to any particular condition, and can be associated with:

  • Scleroderma
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Psoriatic nails
  • Endocarditis (infection of the heart valves)
  • Trauma (usually only one nail)
Splinter Haemorrhage

As mentioned before, your nails can paint a picture about your overall health.

Ignoring subtle changes that occur in your nails may prevent an early diagnosis of a systemic condition.

Seek medical attention from your doctor, dermatologist or podiatrist if you notice any abnormalities in your nails.


Have you suffered from any of the nail conditions mentioned in this post? We would love for you to share your story and your outcome.

Leave your comments in the box below or share this post if you know someone it may help.

Founder of and Podiatrist and Chief Foot Health Inspiration Officer (CFHIO). Travel and yoga are just a few of my passions.