What your nails can tell you about your health

What your nails can tell you about your health

While most of us don't give our nails a second thought, or just look at them when we've got the nail polish out, they can hold vital clues to our overall wellbeing.

From fungal nail infections and injury, to heart problems and skin cancer, the health of your nails shouldn't be ignored.

So, if you find something unusual on the end of your fingers, check in with your doctor or dermatologist. Treating any underlying conditions can improve your nail health, and even save your life.

1.    Fungal nail infection (onychomycosis)
This is one of the most common, relatively harmless nail problems, with over one in six people suffering from it . These types of infection develop slowly and cause the nailbed to become thick, misshapen and discoloured.

There are lots of causes of fungal nail infections, but the most common way they are spread are through public places like swimming pools, sharing shoes with someone who has a fungal nail infection and if you wear closed-toe shoes like boots. Other, less common reasons for developing an infection include: having diabetes, having a disease that causes poor circulation and having a weakened immune system.

At Riverside Dental Spa, we offer a variety of treatments for fungal nail infections and after an initial consultation with our experts, we'll suggest the best course of action.

2.    Ingrowing toenails
These occur when the edge of the nail grows and cuts into the skin surrounding the nail. It often bleeds, becomes inflamed and is particularly painful. Many things can cause ingrowing toenails, such as: badly cut toenails, sweaty feet, misshapen nails and wearing poorly fitting shoes.

Without treatment, an ingrown toenail can become a hotbed of bacteria, becoming painful and infected. Therefore, it's important that you keep your feet clean, cut your toenails straight across so that they don't dig down at the sides, and wear comfortable shoes that fit properly.

3.    Clubbed nails
Some people are born with nails that curve outward and bubble up, but if they develop later in life it's wise to get them checked out quickly. Clubbed nails are often linked to underlying lung disease like COPD, pulmonary fibrosis and heart disease.

Doctors aren't certain how the above diseases are linked to clubbed nails, but it's thought that low oxygen levels change the shape of the fingertip, affecting the way the nail grows.

4.    Lines
Deep, grooved lines that run horizontally across the fingernail or toenail may be Beau's lines. These can be caused by: injury to the nail bed, low calcium, coronary occlusion and skin disease. They can also be caused by malnutrition, a weakened immune system and other diseases. If you suspect you have Beau's lines, it's best to get them checked out by a podiatrist or your doctor.

In contrast to horizontal lines, vertical lines are often considered a normal part of the aging process and often accompany brittle nails.  

5.    Skin cancer
Many of us wouldn't automatically look at our nails for signs of skin cancer, but you may have read a recent news story where a nail artist spotted melanoma on one of her client's fingernails . The client had a straight, vertical black line running down her fingernail and was found to have a particularly aggressive form of cancer. While this is very rare, it's always worth getting any unusual changes checked out.

If you're suffering from a nail problem, or just want to get your nails checked out for peace of mind, you can call our Vauxhall-based experts on: 020 7091 0677. We don't just offer a range of podiatry and nail treatments, we also treat skin disorders and unsightly problems like warts and verrucae.

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