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Secrets Your Nails Reveal

Your nails can tell you about your overall health.
Your nails can tell you about your overall health.
Pixland/Thinkstock

The eyes may be the window to the soul, but your fingernails may provide a peek into the status of your health. Remember, the symptoms listed here may signal the health problems listed; they do not provide definite diagnoses. But if you notice any of these, let your doctor know.

  • Pale or bluish nails: This may indicate anemia.
  • Pink color slow in returning after nail is squeezed: This may indicate decreased or slowed blood circulation.
  • White spots: These result from injury to the nail; they're not due to zinc or other nutrient deficiency as some people believe.
  • Beau's lines: These horizontal depressions occur after a traumatic event, such as a high fever. You might even be able to determine how long ago the event occurred by the length of the nail and the rate at which it grows.
  • White lines parallel to the lunula (and not the cuticle): These may indicate some sort of systemic (body-wide) insult.
  • Clubbed nails: These nails are shaped like the backside of a spoon and may indicate cardiopulmonary disease or asthma.
  • Spoon nails: These dip inward and could indicate certain types of anemia or injury.
  • Pitted nails: These punched-out-looking spots may signify psoriasis.
  • Anything resembling a wart around the nail: This could be a skin cancer and needs to be examined by a doctor.
  • Dark spot: This could be melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer. If the spot "bleeds" into the cuticle or nail folds or if you're fair skinned, this is a serious warning sign that requires immediate medical attention.

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About the Author

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

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