As mentioned in the previous article, the appearance of your fingernails can provide useful diagnostic clues. The normal, healthy nail will have a pink nail bed, indicating a healthy blood supply. The nail plate should be shiny, smooth, flexible, and strong, without pitting or damage. Deviation from normal nails can be used as a preliminary means of diagnosis.
Individuals who have yellow nails may be suffering from different fungal or bacterial infections. If these are ruled out, then yellow nails can indicate diabetes, liver disease, respiratory disorders or damage to the lymphatic system. Discoloration can also result from chronic bronchitis or from lymphedema (swelling of the hands). Yellow nails can also result from yellow nail syndrome. In this condition, the nails thicken, slowing new growth and producing discoloration. Nails affected by yellow nail syndrome may detach from the nail bed and may also lack the presence of a cuticle. If the integrity of the nail is affected by discoloration, causing brittleness or detachment from the nail bed, it can be the result of numerous local infections.
Purple nails generally indicate issues with oxygen regulation, resulting from circulatory disorders, congenital disorders, poor circulation, or possible oxygen deprivation. The presence of purple nails can be an indication of pulmonary failure or disorder.
Individuals with red fingernails may be suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease, or lung disease. Red fingernails can indicate possible brain hemorrhages or strokes, as well as carbon monoxide poisoning.
Grey nails can indicate possible malnutrition, arthritic problems, edema, glaucoma, emphysema, lung problems, or cardio-pulmonary disease. Following a major surgery, grey nails can arise from numerous post-operative effects and complications.
Green nails can arise from allergic reactions to cleaning agents, or emphysema. The green discoloration may also be the result of localized infection, either bacterial or fungal.
The appearance of lines, either red or broad, along the vertical axis of the nail may indicate splinter hemorrhages caused by trichinosis (a parasite found in undercooked pork) or endocarditis (an inflammation of the inner lining of the heart chamber).
If nails become very rigid, this can be an indication of kidney disease. Increased thickness, however, can indicate the presence of circulatory disease. Concave, dry nails can indicate a variety of deficiencies, including vitamins A, B, and C, as well as protein deficiencies.
For these reasons, it is important to schedule regular check-ups with your physician. While nails can be a great indication of disorders, early detection and treatment is always important.
Chris Gromisch is a Junior Chemistry major at Trinity college