What Your Ragged Fingernails Can Tell You About Your Health

fingernailsMy fingernails haven't looked fabulous since I had kids and regular manicures went out the window, but when I noticed what looked like giant dents in my right thumbnail, a little warning bell went off in my head. Even unkempt fingernails aren't supposed to look like that ... hmm. Maybe this wasn't really about my nails at all?

As it turns out: Nope. The state of your fingernails can actually tell you quite a bit about the state of your body overall. It's kind of like this -- if the eyes are the windows to the soul, the fingernails are the window to the, uh, inside of your body and stuff.

Okay, that didn't work. But you get the idea.

If you've got any of the following things going on with your fingernails, consider this a head's up ...

Indentations Known as Beau's lines, these dents run across the nails and can be signs of growth interrupted by severe illness (sometimes a high fever) or malnutrition. They can also be a sign of zinc deficiency.

Nail separation If it looks like your nail is coming loose from the nail bed (eek!), you could be reacting to a product such as a nail hardener ... or this could be a symptom of thyroid disease or psoriasis.

Yellow nails Often, nails look yellow simply because they're stained from dark polish ... but they can also result from respiratory diseases like chronic bronchitis.

Peeling nails There are a couple of possible explanations here ... could be you're spending too much time washing dishes (you probably are), or you could be deficient in linoleic acid (found in most vegetable oils).

Okay, stop staring at your hands.

Do you have any of these weird fingernail symptoms?


Image via Lindsey Turner/Flickr

general health


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kebates kebates

My nails used to be really dry and brittle, and have indents.  Since being on a prenatal, my nails have never looked so good!

PonyC... PonyChaser

I heard once that white spots under your nails (in the pink part) were a sign of Iron deficiency. I'm looking for proof to corroborate...

PonyC... PonyChaser

Well, according to Dr. Weil, I'm completely off-base and the white spots are generally due to some sort of trauma to the nail, and are temporary, so I guess just call it a Wive's Tale.

Dalla... DallasGirl214

I have indentations. I was adopted from the Philipphines and when I was found I was malnourished. Crazy.

Ari. Ari.

I am constantly getting hangnails on all fingers and all my cuticles are trashed. Probably doesn't help that I bite my nails.

Maias... MaiasMommy619

I have indentations on my thumb nails

Stevie Gravel

I have alomost all the above but i think its all due to how much i bite and pick at my nails.


nonmember avatar Kayla

i always heard white spots on the nails were calcium deposits...oh well, they never really happened after/before a specific event/illness.

Evaly... EvalynCarnate

I always heard that if you get white spots on your nails it was a sort of "bruise"...I've had them before and they usually go away in a couple days. 

I'm on prenatals right now, so I've got ROCKIN nails! lol

nonmember avatar HS

I pick and chew my cuticles (yeah yeah bad habit I know) so the edges of the nails are usually ragged. My thumbs have indentions from that time I got acrylic nails put on. My stress levels are down right now so my fingers actually look quite nice right now. The cuticles are healing and the nails are growing and aren't thin and brittle...my stress signs. I mostly suffer from dry hands though.

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