Everything Your Fingernails Are (Silently) Telling You About Your Health

English novelist Ian McEwan once wrote, "You can tell a lot from a person's nails. When a life starts to unravel, they're among the first to go." While that may be a little dramatic, it is true that a person's fingernails can be a sign of what's happening elsewhere in his or her body - as you'll see in more detail on this list of what fingernails can tell you about your health.

First, here are some fun facts about your fingernails: They're largely made of keratin, a protein that also serves as a crucial component of skin and hair. Contrary to popular belief, the nails that we see are not alive at all. They're dead cells being pushed out by live ones growing under the skin. That's why it doesn't hurt to clip our nails; they're already dead. But because nails need blood flow to develop, and several nerve endings are located under the skin of the nails, they can be a sort of early warning system that something may not be right with the internal workings of our bodies.

Photo: user uploaded image

  • Pale Or Faded Nails Can Be A Sign Of Anemia

    Nails that look pale, faded, or washed out are often a sign of anemia. As iron binds to oxygen in our blood, it enhanced the richness of its red color. But when blood is lacking in iron, it is less visible under the skin of the nails, resulting in a paler appearance.

    Pale nails might also indicate lung conditions, circulation problems, and certain neurological ailments.

  • White Nails Can Indicate Liver Problems

    White fingernails are linked to the liver. They could be early signs of jaundice or hepatitis, both liver-specific conditions.


  • Dark Bands Or Stripes Under A Nail Might Be Melanoma

    Dark lines under the nail are generally not a cause for immediate concern. It is estimated that as many as half of all African-Americans have dark bands or stripes under their nails. But it could potentially be a sign of a serious health condition: melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

    When melanoma is on the skin's surface, it usually presents as a mole or dark discoloration, but when it is under the nail surface, it often looks like a dark band or stripe. Check out a gallery of images here.

  • A Concave Nail Could Signal Iron Issues

    Concave nails, or "spoon nails," are nails with a noticeable dip or indentation, turning the entire nail into a tiny bowl. In some cases, this could be a sign of iron-related conditions, including anemia.

    Spoon nails can also be a symptom of celiac disease, diabetes, and malnutrition.

  • Pitted Nails Can Mean Psoriasis Or Arthritis

    Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are autoimmune conditions that can cause pitted or ridged nails. Psoriasis is often associated with thick, red skin patches, but it can also cause an itchy scalp and even hair loss. Psoriatic arthritis - an extreme form of stiff joints - can develop in those who have psoriasis.

    View some photos of pitted nails here.

  • Brittle, Cracked, Or Peeling Nails Might Be A Sign Of An Underactive Thyroid

    Nails can become extremely delicate, tending to crack, split, or peel due to hormone problems. Hormones are produced, stored, and released by the endocrine system, in which the thyroid plays a major role. An underactive thyroid could be the cause of brittle nails.

    Raynaud's Phenomenon, a rare disorder of the blood vessels in the fingers and toes, can impede proper blood flow to the nails, possible making them brittle or cracked