Secrets Your Nails Reveal

Your nails can tell you about your overall health.
Your nails can tell you about your overall health.

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.