9 fingernail signs you might be sick

Traditional healers, naturopaths and even old-school physicians can get clues as to the state and quality of your health by looking at you.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we learn to “observe, smell, listen, and feel (palpate)” to discern health quality.

Your body offers many “secret signs” that, really, are just “hidden in plain sight.” All you have to do is know where to look, what you are looking for and what the signs you see mean. I’ve previously shared some of the body’s secret signs, including what your tongue says about you. And while I touched on fingernails in the past, I would like to offer even more details today…

Because your fingernails tend to grow quickly and continuously, they are great indicators of your health and wellness. Believe it or not, you can learn about early signs of organ dysfunction from the nails long before you might feel symptoms that send you to the doctor. Nail color and nail quality reflect different things, so let’s look at both.

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Nail color signs

Pale Nails and especially very pale nails (and skin) can be signs of anemia (low blood iron), lack of nutrition (whole vitamin sources), congestive heart failure and liver disease.

White Nails with additional markers signify different things. White with darker rims can be a sign of hepatitis. White with narrow pink bottom (known as Terry’s nails) can also signify liver disease, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, or diabetes.

Yellow Nails are often associated with fungal infection, and also liver dysfunction. If they are yellow and brittle, or crumbly, this might also indicate issues like psoriasis or diabetes, or disease of the lungs (chronic bronchitis, for example) or thyroid. Caveat: smoking can also stain the fingernails yellow as can use of nail polish.

Bluish Nails, like bluish lips, can represent extreme cold or lack of oxygen. If you are not cold, then they can indicate respiratory issues like COPD and emphysema.

White Spots on fingernails often indicate a deficiency in zinc. Even with good diet you may need to take a zinc supplement to get enough if you have white spots on your nails. However, the zinc deficiency could be due to other issues, which would be good to review with your doctor; but wait a while to see if they go away first, as they can be caused from physical trauma.

Black Nails or dark lines under the nails could be a sign of dangerous skin cancer, like the deadly melanoma. If you see black streaks or painful growth, please consult with your doctor immediately.

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Nail quality signs

Rippled or Pitted Nails could represent psoriasis or sign of early stage autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and connective tissue disorders like Reiter’s syndrome.

Cracked or Split Nails generally follow a dry and brittle phase and are often associated signs of thyroid disorders, especially hypothyroidism. This can also be a sign of vitamin deficiency, especially of vitamins A, C and B (biotin). However, fungal infection could be the cause if the cracked and brittle fingernails also have a yellowish tint.

Puffy Red Nail Fold is due to inflammation around the edges of the nail, especially at the base. This may be due to injury, infection or connective tissue diseases like lupus.

Your nail color and quality signs can offer invaluable insights into your state of health. So when you cut them back or paint them, take a few moments to look them over and see what you see… it may give ample warning and help stave off disease.

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Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.