Fingernails are made from keratin
, a protein
and grow from a root
which is affected by the state of health
of the rest of the body. If nails
, ridged or discoloured, it can be indicative of an underlying
illness, so it’s worth getting things checked out if you notice that your
fingernails are doing odd
A few years ago, the nails on my little fingers became very
soft and began to take on a slight upward curve. What I didn’t know at the
time is that this is referred to as "spoon
-shaped" nails (though they didn't
really look that spoon-like to me), and are often associated with anemia
. In severe cases of anemia, the nail will continue to
change shape until it can actually hold as much as a drop of water in the
curvature. I didn't experience anything that extreme because I went to a doctor, held my
hands out, said, "What's this about?" and he made me take huge doses of
Aside from having your fingernails turn into little spoons, there are some other changes that one might want to ask a doctor about, such as:
When the fingertips widen, become rounded and the nails curve around them,
this is known as "clubbing". It's due to a drastic enlargement in connective
tissue as it tries to compensate for a chronic lack of oxygen and so is
often associated with people who have lung disease, heart disease, or
An arc of brownish discoloration, "Half-and-Half (Lindsay's nails)" appears
in a small percentage of people who are experiencing kidney failure.
White lines that run horizontally across the nail, following
the shape of it's "moon" are known as "Mee's lines," often attributed to
Indentations that run horizontally across the nail are known
as "Beau's lines" and can appear as a result of growth being stunted at the
root (matrix) due to severe illnesses such as a heart attack, measles,
pneumonia or high fever.
There is a condition known as "Onycholysis" in which the nail separates from the
nail bed, possibly due to physical injury, psoriasis, drug reactions, fungal
disease or contact dermatitis from using nail hardeners. It may also be
related to an over or under-active thyroid, anemia or syphilis.
Small pits or depressions are called "pitting," often occurring with people
who have psoriasis.
If the nail looks opaque and white, but the nail tip has a dark pink to
brown band, this is known as "Terry's nails". and may be indicative of
cirrhosis, congestive heart failure, a warning sign of diabetes in adults, cancer or simply aging.
Narrow ridges that runs the length of the nail are simply called "Vertical
ridges." They may appear in the nails of adults, become more pronounced with aging and are sometimes associated with kidney failure.
When one or
more nails turn yellow or green, this is called "yellow nail syndrome." The
nails grow slowly and the cuticle disappears, sometimes due to fluid retention in the hands and feet or a number of respiratory
diseases, such as chronic bronchitis.
Source: My own fingernails and information from
(originally published in a Mayo Clinic Health Letter)
And by the way, it is estimated that one in four women are anemic and don't know it.