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Nail Health 101: Finger Nails Can Detect Dangerous Medical Conditions

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Did you know that by taking a good look at your finger nails you may be able to get a good read on your health? Certain nail conditions are early warning signs for more serious health conditions. So the next time you get a manicure be sure to pay close attention to the look of your fingernails. If you see any ridges, dents or areas of unusual color or shape you may have an illness that requires immediate medical attention.

According to Mayoclinic.com your nails are composed of laminated layers of protein call keratin. Healthy nails are smooth without too much ridging or grooving. They're also uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration. Normal nails may develop vertical ridges but these are harmless and often become more prominent with age. Nails can also acquire white lines or spots but these are often just due to injury and grow out in time. However, not all nail conditions are normal. Here are a few conditions outlined by Mayoclinic.com to look out for:

Yellow Nail Syndrome- Yellow coloring of the nails may be a result of a respiratory condition such as chronic bronchitis or lymph edema. This condition is often accompanied by thick nails and slow growth, often resulting in discoloration. Cuticles may also detach from the nail bed in places.

Nail Pitting- People with psoriasis, a skin condition that often produces scaly patches; often encounter pitting or small depressions in the nails. Pitting is also associated with other conditions such a chronic dermatitis of the fingers or alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.

Nail Clubbing- The term clubbing refers to when the tips of your fingers enlarge and nails curve around the fingertips. This is often cause by low oxygen levels in the blood caused by lung disease. Clubbing is also associated with inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular and liver disease.

Spoon Nails- Koilonychias or spoon nails refer to soft nails that look scooped out. The scooped out area is usually large enough to hold a drop of liquid. Spoon nails may be a sign of iron deficiency anemia.

Terry's Nails- This condition makes your nails appear opaque with a dark band around the tip. This can often be associated with aging but it can also be attributed to illnesses such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, liver disease, or malnutrition.

Beau's lines- These are indentations that run across the nails. These can appear when growth under the cuticle is interrupted by injury or by severe illness such as uncontrolled diabetes, circulatory diseases, peripheral artery disease, or high fever caused by pneumonia, scarlet fever, mumps, measles or malnutrition.

Onycholysis- With this condition your fingernails become loose and can separate from the nail bed. Detaching nails are commonly associated with injury or infection, thyroid disease, drug reactions, or psoriasis.

By keeping an eye out for these nail conditions you have may be able to detect a much worse medical condition.