Your body has many kinds of warning signs to tell you if something is wrong: a fever to signal infection, a rash to alert you of an allergen, pain to notify you of an unwanted foreign substance. Did you know that your nails are also little flags that can notify you that something in your body is malfunctioning? Learn these common nail abnormalities that are important for you to know. Armed with this knowledge, you can get the treatment your nails are telling you that you need.
Nail pitting is characterized by small pits or depressions in the nail that look like they are caused by an ice pick. This is common with people who suffer from psoriasis (a disease that also causes white, flakey plaques on the skin) and alopecia areata (chronic hair loss). If you have nail psoriasis (which includes other nail issues besides pitting), you can talk to your doctor about a treatment plan to care for your nails. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you avoid anything that dries or injures your nails. They also say that using gentle buffing and nail polish can help hide the dents in your nails.
Nail clubbing describes the downward curving and thickening of your nails. This can be a harmless genetic condition or can signal low oxygen in the blood, which can be caused by a lung disease. Nail clubbing can also occur if you have inflammatory bowel disease, AIDS, a cardiovascular disease or a liver disease. If you notice your nails starting to club, make an appointment with your dermatologist so you can get a diagnosis for the condition.
Nail spooning, also called koilonychia, describes a condition characterized by the thinning of your nails and the outward edges scooping up, often high enough so that your nails can hold a drop of liquid. Nail spooning is most often caused by an iron deficiency. Lack of iron can result from poor nutrition, a disease of the bowel or intestine, heart disease, hypothyroidism or celiac disease. Spoon nails can also occur if you have hemochromatosis, a liver disorder in which your body absorbs too much iron from your food. If your nails start spooning, contact your doctor, who can determine the cause of your nail disorder.
Beau’s lines are depressions that run horizontally across your nails. Beau’s lines occur when something has slowed the regular growth of your nails, such as injury or illness. Illnesses that can cause these nail ridges are unregulated diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, malnourishment, pneumonia, zinc deficiency, and illnesses that cause high fever, including scarlet fever, mumps, and measles. It is best to see a doctor to get the cause of the lines diagnosed. Once you have received treatment, the nails should grow normally.
Onycholysis occurs when your nail lifts up or separates from the nail bed. It is often also accompanied by the nail turning white where it has lifted up. Causes of nail separation are use of nail products like nail hardeners and adhesives, psoriasis, injury to your nail, a fungal infection, or thyroid disease. Your nail will heal and grow normally with time if it has received injury or harsh treatment from nail products. If you have a nail fungus, you should work with a dermatologist who can provide medication and treatment tips to eliminate the fungus.
Your nails can become discolored in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. One type of fingernail discoloration is called yellow nail syndrome, which is the yellowing and thickening of the nails, possibly caused by a lung disease or the swelling of the hands. Your nails can also turn yellow from a fungal infection or the use of nail polish without an undercoat. Nails that turn a black or green color are usually infected by a bacteria and need to be treated by a dermatologist. If you have a nail with a dark streak, you could have melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. Make an appointment immediately to see a dermatologist to determine if the dark line on your nail is harmless or needs cancer treatment. Your nails could develop white spots (leukonychia) if your finger has experienced a minor trauma, if you have poor nutrition, or if you have certain diseases. Other nail discolorations are described on the American Board of Dermatology’s website, where you can also see possible causes of the discoloration. If your nail changes color and you have not experienced a nail injury, you should see your dermatologist who can properly diagnose and recommend treatment for your nail condition.
If you have a nail abnormality, make an appointment with one of the board certified dermatologists at Vanguard Dermatology in the greater New York City area. The experienced practitioners at Vanguard can properly diagnose and recommend treatment for the cause of your nail change.