Identifying Nail Abnormalities by Nail Shape

 Identifying Nail Abnormalities by Nail Shape

Your nails are little banners, signalling either a healthy body or the presence of a disease or deficiency in your body. Learn to identify different types of nail abnormalities, characterized by the malformation of the nail’s shape. Knowing these nail abnormalities can help you know when you need to seek treatment from an experienced dermatologist.

A Normal Nail

Healthy nails are usually smooth in texture with consistent color along the entire nail. As you age, you may notice vertical ridges forming from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. These ridges on nails, along with the nails becoming more brittle, is a normal part of aging and typically does not qualify as a nail abnormality. If you’ve injured the nail, you may see white lines or spots. These will grow out and don’t need any medical attention. However, if you notice other changes to your nails’ coloring, texture, shape or thickness, you should see a doctor to determine the cause of the change and to pursue the best treatment.

Nail Separation

One cause for concern is if your nail starts separating from the underlying skin. This condition is called onycholysis and can be identified if you start seeing white patches along the tip of the nail where it is separating. Onycholysis can be caused by psoriasis, thyroid disease or a fungal infection. It can also arise from an injury to the nail, which can even happen in a careless manicure. If this change to your nail shape is because of psoriasis, thyroid disease or a nail fungus, you will need treatment from a dermatologist, who can prescribe the appropriate medication and/or create a treatment plan. Nail psoriasis symptoms also include nail pitting, change in color, and either thickening or thinning of the nails.


If your nails curl upward, creating a spoon-like shape that can hold a droplet of water, you have a condition called koilonychia. One of the most common causes of koilonychia is anemia, or iron deficiency. Anemia can occur if you have a poor diet, have a stomach or intestinal disorder, or are sensitive to gluten. Spooning can also arise if you have a liver disease called hemochromatosis, in which your liver absorbs too much iron from your diet. Some other sources of spooning are heart disease and hypothyroidism.

Clubbed Nails

Clubbed nails are characterized by the gradual enlargement of the tips of the fingers and the curving growth of the nails over the fingertips. The nails will also often feel spongy. While nail clubbing can be a harmless genetic trait, it can also indicate a variety of disorders, including a lung disease that keeps your blood from being properly oxygenated, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, or AIDS.

Ram’s Horn Nails

Ram’s horn nails, or onychogryphosis, gets its name from the way the nails thicken and curl up into horn-like shapes. The thick and curled nails will also usually be yellowed. Like clubbed nails, ram’s horn nails, can simply be a genetically inherited condition. However, psoriasis, circulation problems or ichthyosis (a genetic skin disorder) can also cause the nails to thicken and curl. You will need a dermatologist or podiatrist to help diagnose the root of your nail abnormality and to care for your nails.

Call Vanguard Today

Contact Vanguard Dermatology in the greater New York City area to schedule your appointment. The board-certified dermatologists at Vanguard can assess your nail abnormalities, diagnose the cause and create a treatment plan to return your body and nails back to health.

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