What Your Nails Reveal About Your Health

March 31st 2017

You may have heard that urine and stool can reveal certain things about your health, but you don't have to visit the bathroom (or even a doctor) to get a better look at your health — you can just check your fingernails.

This isn't pseudoscience. Indeed, some doctors inspect patients' fingernails as part of a routine checkup to help them arrive at a diagnosis.

Here are five things your fingernails can reveal about your health.

1. Pale nails

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If your nails are pale, rather than pinkish, that can be a sign of a blood condition known as anemia, according to Dr. Joshua Fox. White nail beds indicate a low red blood cell count, which is one symptom of anemia, a condition that affects about 3 million people in the U.S. and makes it more difficult to get enough oxygen through your system.

2. Pitted nails

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Small craters or ridges on your nails could be an early indicator of skin psoriasis, a condition marked by red, flaky, and itchy skin, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. It could also be a sign of a type of psoriasis that exclusively affects the nails.

3. Clubbed nails

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Nail clubbing can develop over the course of weeks, and it can be a harbinger of serious medical conditions such as lung and heart diseases, the U.S. Library of of Medicine explains. If your nail beds gradually soften, appear larger and inflamed, and curve downward, that clubbing can mean you've contracted a lung infection or have a heart defect.

4. White spots

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If you physically injure your nail, there's a chance that you'll develop small white spots on the nail bed that are harmless and will go away over time. But if white spots on your nails can't be attributed to trauma and don't fade away, that can be a sign of a fungal infection, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola.

5. Dark, discolored nails

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Slamming the door on your hand can cause bruising that leaves your nails a dark, purplish color for weeks. But dark spots under the nail in the absence of trauma can be a sign of something serious, and medical professionals advise people with this discoloration to visit a doctor immediately.

"If you see something wrong or unusual, like a dark brown patch on your cuticle that also has an accompanying brown streak up across the whole nail plate, see a dermatologist for help," Dr. Jessica Krant told The Huffington Post. That can be a sign of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.

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