Nail Disorders and What to Look For

As you age, the presentation of your finger and toenails may decline. They often become more brittle and can develop vertical ridges. These changes with age are common and are not a cause for concern.

However, nail disorders are significant because they might reflect the health of your overall body. Although the fingernail’s appearance alone is not enough to specifically diagnose an illness, it can give you and your physician insight. Certain medical conditions are known to change the appearance of fingernails. If you are unsure about a nail abnormality, you should consult a dermatologist or your family doctor.

There are nail symptoms to look out for that relate to medical conditions. It may be necessary to visit a dermatologist if you notice the signs listed below:

  • Excessively brittle nails
  • Pitted nails
  • Discoloration of the nails (dark, white, or other color changes)
  • Changes in nail shape
  • Swelling of the nails
  • Redness or bleeding around nails
  • Nails that are painful or separating from the skin

These abnormal changes can indicate various medical conditions. Some nail-related issues are listed below.

Beau’s Lines– This nail condition presents itself with horizontal ridges or dents that run across the finger or toenail. Malnourishment, diseases such as measles, mumps, scarlet fever, pneumonia, peripheral vascular disease, diabetes, and zinc deficiency are reasons someone may have Beau’s lines.

Clubbing– Clubbing of the nails is another change to cause concern. This may indicate that a person is suffering from cardiovascular disease, liver or pulmonary disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or even AIDS. This irregularity is often due to a lack of oxygen in the blood. Typically, the nails begin to thicken and curve over weeks or sometimes years.

Spooning– This abnormal growth of the nails is also known as Koilonychia. It gets its “spooning” name because that is how the nails begin to grow. The soft nails look as if they are scooped out with a depression in them. Oftentimes, the dip is significant enough to hold a drop of liquid. Spooning of the nail can suggest a variety of health-related issues. For example, it may reveal that an individual has iron deficiency anemia or heart disease. It could also be a sign of other disorders such as lupus erythematosus, Raynaud’s disease, hemochromatosis, or hypothyroidism.

Leukonychia– This is a condition in which the nails form white spots or lines. This situation can occur in healthy individuals in circumstances where injury has taken place. However, it can also present itself in people with nutritional deficiencies and poor health. Certain diseases as well as some drugs correlate to the presence of Leukonychia.

Mee’s Lines– White lines that transverse the entire nail bed of the individual are known as Mee’s Lines. Someone with this symptom may be suffering from arsenic poisoning, thallium, or other heavy metal poisonings. Other common associations include infections, malignant or renal disease, or even cardiac failure.

Onycholysis– This condition is when the nail separates from the nail bed. This will cause discoloration of the nail. Trauma and infection can cause onycholysis of the nails. Certain products might also be to blame for this issue. Additionally, thyroid disease and psoriasis are other causes of this nail condition.

Pitting– Nail pitting is when tiny dents appear on the finger and toenails. It can be a sign that an individual has psoriasis, eczema, or joint inflammation.

Terry’s Nails– This nail discoloration can be mistaken for general signs of aging. With Terry’s Nails, the nail beds begin to form a dark, reddish-brown strip on the tips of the fingernails. The nail bed appears “washed out” everywhere else. This nail abnormality can be caused by a variety of issues including liver disease, diabetes, and congestive heart failure.

Yellow Nail Syndrome– This rare disorder is characterized by malformations of the finger and toenails in which they lack a cuticle and often pull away from the nail bed. A person suffering from Yellow Nail Syndrome may notice changes in nail color and very limited nail growth. However, the nails do become thicker. If you notice these irregular nail changes, you may be experiencing underlying health issues. Yellow nail syndrome can be a result of internal malignancies, lymphedema, rheumatoid arthritis, pleural effusions, or a respiratory illness.

There are ways that an individual can avoid nail abnormalities. You should care for your nails by considering the following tips.

  • Refrain from biting your nails, cuticles, and hangnails
  • Trim nails after bathing when the nails are still soft
  • Always use nail clippers to trim your nails
  • Maintain clean and dry nails
  • Keep your nails short if you suffer from brittle or weak nails to avoid breakage
  • Nourish your nails by keeping them moisturized
  • Ensure that your nail technician uses appropriate sanitation techniques
  • Avoid overusing nail polish as well as nail polish remover

If you notice any abnormal changes in your nails, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible. Nail disorders can reflect signs of deeper issues inside the body. The condition of your nails can help a physician provide you with a proper diagnosis.

Dr. Gurgen provides evidence-based treatment techniques that can restore the health of your nails effectively. Contact our office at Lady Lake Dermatology & Mohs Surgery in The Villages and Leesburg to schedule an appointment. We offer our patients quality and personalized care for various skin and nail conditions