Why do Doctors check your nails?

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besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Examination of the nails can give doctors many clues regrading overall health. Here are a few indicators of health issues:

  1. Yellow Nail Syndrome-When fingers develop a yellow discoloration it can be a sign of chronic bronchitis or lymphedema (swelling of the feet). When people have Yellow Nail Syndrome, nail growth slows down and the nails become thicker. Cuticles may begin to disappear and the mail may even detach from the bed.
  2. Nail Pitting-People with psoriasis often have small depressions in their nails. It is also associated with other conditions such as alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.
  3. Nail Clubbing-This happens when the tips of the fingers are enlarged and the fingernails curve around the fingertips. It is associated with conditions such as lung diseases bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, and liver disease.
  4. Terry's Nails-In this condition the nails look opaque but there is a brown band present around the top of the nail. It can be associated with normal aging, along with some serious conditions such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, and malnutrition.

It is important that people contact a doctor if any of these indicators are seen. The doctor will able to do a thorough examination and run any further tests.

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ako6777 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Like the skin and hair, the nails can be an indicator of good and poor health.  Many underlying conditions can be indicated by the appearance and health of the finger and toe nails. 

  • Clubbing of the nails can indicate inflammatory bowel disease, pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis, or COPD.
  • Spoon shaped nails can indicate anemia
  • Onycholysis (separation of the nail from the nail bed) can indicate hyperthyroidism and psoriasis
  • Beau's lines (are deep grooved lines that run from side to side on the fingernail) can indicate previous illness or trauma in individuals with Raynaud’s disease
  • Pitting of the nails may indicate a connective tissue disorder
  • Mees lines (horizontal white bands on the nail) can indicate arsenic poisoning, Hodgkin's disease, and leprosy

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