Woman looking at finger nails

Health Meanings Behind Nail Discoloration

Your body is incredible at giving you signs that there is a problem somewhere. One place that many people often overlook when it comes to performing self-checks is their nails. Nails, both finger and toe, can help doctors identify certain diseases, disorders and other conditions. Keep reading for a look at the health meanings behind nail discoloration.

Blue Nails
Unless you’ve recently taken off blue nail polish, blue-tinged nails can be indicative of a number of health concerns or conditions including:

  • Cyanosis – Cyanosis is defined as a bluish discoloration of the skin or nails that is the result of inadequate circulation to the blood or poor circulation. If your nails return to normal color after you massage or warm your fingers, then the condition is likely caused by cold constriction, which occurs when your fingers don’t get enough blood supply.
  • Respiratory Problems – Blue fingertips could also be an indication of lung and breathing problems such as asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis or other respiratory disorders.
  • Raynaud’s Syndrome – Also called Raynaud’s Phenomenon or Raynaud’s Disease, this occurs when your fingertips and nails change from white to blue to red. Raynaud’s disease is a condition in which certain areas of your body, like your fingers, toes or nose, feel numb or tingly in extreme weather or stressful situations.

Green Nails
Sporting a green manicure for St. Patrick’s Day is festive, green colored nails on your fingers naturally can indicate:

  • Allergic Reactions – You use your hands constantly and cleaning is a part of your life. If you find that your nails have a green tint, you may want to examine all of the cleansers you use. Cleansing agents can cause allergic reactions, and green nails can be a signal that you’re body doesn’t agree with something you’re using.
  • Fungal Infection – Green under your nails may also be a symptom of a localized fungal infection. Onychomycosis, or tinea unguium, is “…a fungal infection that affects either the fingernails or toenails,” according to Healthline. The American Academy of Dermatology notes that green nails as a result of fungal infections affect toenails more than fingernails.

Black Nails
If you have recently injured any of your nails, they may turn black due to blood under your nail and this is a common occurrence. However, if the black nail does not go away, it could indicate:

  • Anemia – The appearance of black nails may be an indication that you are anemic. Anemia is when your body is deficient in iron, and can be remedied through iron supplements under the care of your doctor.
  • Vitamin B12 Deficiency – The National Institutes of Health states “[v]itamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia that makes people tired and weak.”
  • Melanoma – Very rarely, black nails can indicate the presence of a melanoma. This is an uncommon occurrence and is found more in people with darker skin tones than lighter skin tones.

Most often, nail discolorations are harmless, but there are times when different colored nails can indicate something else is happening inside your body. To make sure your doctor can give you a thorough examination, always remove nail polish prior to your appointments. Paying attention to the color of your nails can help you keep your body healthy.

Woman applying hand cream

What Your Hands Say About Your Health

You use them every day for everything, but when was the last time that you actually took the time to care for your hands? If it’s been a while, you may be surprised at what you find, and even more surprised at what those findings can indicate. Below, find out some common occurrences regarding the appearance of your hands and your health.

Flaky, Peeling Skin
Fingertips that suddenly begin to peel or become flaky are often an indication of a vitamin B deficiency. Two B vitamins that are important for the health of your skin are biotin, B7, and niacin B3. You can up the amount of niacin and biotin by eating foods like fish, peanuts, avocados and mushrooms, and you can also add a supplement to your diet. “Taking a biotin supplement helps to promote healthy skin and nail growth; niacin helps protect and repair skin by preventing the formation of melanin, boosting collagen growth, and improving your skin’s natural moisture barrier,” says David Bank, M.D, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York City’s New York-Presbyterian/Columbia.

Discoloration Under Your Nail
If you notice a black or brown streak under your nail, seek medical attention immediately. According to David J. Leffell, M.D., Chief Section of Dermatologic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology at Yale University School of Medicine a black or brown streak under the nail can be a sign of acral melanoma, a rare skin cancer that often occurs in people with darker skin tones. Although this nail discoloration may be an early sign of melanoma, this type of cancer only accounts for about one to three percent of all cases of melanoma.

Pale, White or Blue Fingertips
Fingertips that change in color from blue to white to red could be an indication of Raynaud’s syndrome. According to Bank, “this condition causes coldness of the fingers and toes and can be accompanied by pain, numbness and tingling.” Experts believe that Raynaud’s syndrome is caused by spasms of the blood vessels that narrow them and lead to decreased circulation. You may also notice that your ears or nose go numb when temperatures drop or when you are put under a significant amount of stress.

Woman scratching her arms.

Dry, Itchy Skin
Your hands are frequently dried out because they are in constant use. “Repeated hand washing, which can dry your hands, and then touching paper and other harsh material all day long, will doubly dry them out,” warns Bank. However, if your skin seems to remain dry and itchy or if you have rashes, you may have eczema. Check with your doctor to determine whether or not your skin is just dry or if you have eczema. Bank says to apply products containing vitamins A and E to your hands and cuticles at night. “Because we don’t wash our hands while we sleep, these products will have a good amount of time to penetrate into your skin,” says Bank.

Pale, White Nail Beds
Not to be confused with pale or white fingertips that may be a symptom of Raynaud’s syndrome, pale or white nail beds can be a sign that you are anemic. Anemia means that your body is not making enough healthy red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying adequate oxygen to your tissues. Generally, the treatment for anemia is quite simple and involves iron supplementation, but you should confirm this diagnosis with a doctor before taking additional iron.

It is useful to check your own body, if you find any of these signs or symptoms on your hands or nails, contact a medical professional. Paying attention to your body helps you to remain healthy and informed, and don’t forget to give your hands a little extra TLC every so often.