As anyone who has ever dealt with hormonal acne knows, what’s going on inside our bodies is often reflected on the outside. Clues to our health are written all over—if we know where to look. One of those places: our nails. We tapped dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Department of Dermatology, to share what our nails can tell us about our health. Here’s what divots, color changes, and more can mean when they show up on our nails.
If you see: a new black streak
“A new black streak in the nail could be a sign of melanoma. Melanoma is a potentially deadly form of skin cancer caused by an overgrowth of pigment-producing cells. In some cases it can actually grow under the nail. So if you see a new black blotch under the nail, visit your dermatologist for evaluation. The most common cause of a rapid-onset black blotch is trauma and a resulting bruise under the nail. But you should always make sure it’s not something else. If the cuticle is turning black, that is a worrisome sign.”
If you see: pits or divots
“If you have pits or divots in your nails, it may be a sign of an underlying autoimmune condition. Conditions like psoriasis and alopecia have been shown to be associated with nail changes. When there is inflammation in the nail matrix, which is the area just underneath your cuticle where the nail itself is produced, the nail doesn’t develop properly and can lead to pits.”
“Yellow nails are typically a sign of staining from dark polish. However, in some cases, yellow nails may be caused by thickening of the nails associated with conditions like thyroid disease, diabetes, or fungal infections of the nail itself.”
“If you have lost the half moon at the base of your nails, it may be a sign of malnutrition or anemia. Touch base with your doctor for some blood tests to evaluate whether there are any underlying issues.”
If you see: nails turning white
“If your nails are turning white, it may be a condition known as Terry’s nails. Here, there is a thin band of normal color toward the free edge of the nail, but otherwise the nails turn white. This could be a sign of liver or kidney disease or even heart failure.”
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