Nail Health Checks

Unusual nail changes to look for -- and whether you should be concerned.
Did you know that your nails provide a peek into the status of your health? Here are some unusual changes you might notice on your nails, and whether you should be concerned.

"My nails are pale"

A loss of the typical pink nail color is often an indication of iron deficiency anemia as there is only a low level of haemoglobin in the blood, and can also be due to vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency. "The cause always needs investigation," says Dr Sarah Brewer. If you're severely anemic, your nails may also become thin and spoon-shaped.

"There are white spots on my nails"

Although they may look worrying, white spots are your nails aren't necessarily a cause for concern. "The true cause is almost always minor trauma to the nail bed, although zinc deficiency may weaken the nail bed so that it is more suspectible to trauma," says Dr Brewer.

"My nails are turning white"

If it's more than just a spot, there may be other causes. "If whiteness affects the whole nail and also feels rough, you may have a fungal infection," advises Dr Brewer. As a fungal infection develops, the nail will also thicken and many separate from the nail bed. "In rare cases, nail whitening can be linked with low levels of albumin (a blood protein)."

"I've got yellow nails"

Fungal infections, nicotine staining and using nail polish without a base coat can all encourage your nails to turn yellow, explains Dr Brewer. Less commonly, poor lymph draining can also be a factor.

"I've got deep ridges across my nails"

Also known as Beau's lines, these ridges occur because your nails have temporarily stopped growing, explains Dr Brewer. "This occurs during physical stress such as periods of illness and can also be a sign of a zinc deficiency."

"My nails are pitted"

"Pitting describes small, shallow pits in the nail plate that look as if someone has made little dents in the nail with a pin," says Dr Brewer. The odd bit of pitting can be due to trauma but if it's more widespread, it can be down to psoriasis, alopecia areata or atopic eczema.

"My nails look like claws"

Gross thickening so that the nails resemble clawss can occur with advancing age, especially in the big toe nail, but may also be linked with trauma, psoriasis or fungal nail infection, says Dr Brewer.

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