An American tiktoker told her followers that after living for 10 years with a dark spot on her thumbnail, she discovered cancer. In her publication, Maria Sylvia said that it was a big surprise, as she never suspected that she had a disease that had been incubating for so long.
That’s why it’s worth the alert: nail changes can even be the first manifestation of some health problem and contribute in an essential way to early diagnosis. A white spot here, a darker part there, ripples, all these can be a sign of disease or a genetic predisposition to some conditions, such as liver, lung and heart problems.
“The nail is a reflection of how we are inside”, explains Máira De Magalhães Mariano Astur, a dermatologist at Unifesp (Federal University of São Paulo).
But there’s no need to despair over any blemish, as many nail anomalies are harmless. Therefore, when in doubt, it is important to always consult a dermatologist.
Here’s how to identify that something may be wrong with your health through the appearance of your nails:
In excess, light nails can indicate nutritional and endocrine diseases, related to lack of nutrients or hormonal problems. A lack of iron, protein and biotin, or even anemia can be the cause.
Known as Terry’s nails, they can suggest local trauma, liver disease, kidney disease, cirrhosis, heart failure, diabetes, fungal infection, or even a genetic change. Or even that they were exposed to chemicals. They can also be a side effect of some antibiotics or diseases such as vitiligo and leprosy.
They may arise in the context of lung and liver diseases, lymphatic system disorders, psoriasis, diabetes, drug reaction and fungal infection. They also occur due to aging or the use of hydrogen peroxide, nail polish and ammonia dyes.
Known as blue nail syndrome, it is associated with chemical exposure such as the condition argyria —a disease caused by the impregnation of silver salts—; Wilson’s disease —hereditary disease of copper metabolism—, or Raynaud’s disease (arterial disease), in addition to respiratory problems (asthma, pneumonia, pulmonary emphysema).
They may suggest low oxygenation, blood circulation disorders and rheumatologic diseases.
Ripples on nails
They occur after infectious diseases, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, lupus, drug reaction (as in chemotherapy cycles), or after fever. But it could also have to do with natural aging.
Cracked or brittle nails
They can indicate lack of vitamins, iron, folic acid, malnutrition and endocrine diseases, thyroid problems, such as hypothyroidism. They can also be related to excessive use of nail polish, false nails, use of acetone-based removers, frequent contact with water and irritating products.
Dark lines on nails
It’s called melononychia, which can be a benign change in color in people of black skin or people of Japanese and Hispanic descent. It can also be a manifestation of skin cancer (melanoma) or a reaction to retroviral drugs.
They can be brown, gray or black, from the base of the nail to the top, on the fingernails and/or on the toenails.
Red skin around the nails
Suggests inflammation. It may be due to mechanical trauma, the habit of removing cuticles, frequent contact with water and irritating products, which can lead to the occurrence of bacterial and fungal infections at the site.
They may indicate rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, heart failure, liver cirrhosis, carbon monoxide poisoning, benign tumors, among other pathologies.
*With Reporting information published on 08/12/2021.