In plain sight: how your nails can show signs of stress and disease

September 14, 2020
In plain sight: how your nails can show signs of stress and disease

Stress can take a toll on person physically and psychologically, and may also lead to outward signs on the skin, hair and nails – some people develop the nervous habit of biting their nails or picking at them when stressed.

Healthy nails should be featureless, band and ordinary; according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), as “changes in the nail, such as flaking, thickening or discolouration, may be a sign of a deeper health problem.”

Though everyone’s nails differ, something to notice about them may include:-

  • Yellow nails or discolouration – nails may be yellow due to repeated application of nail polish, aging, smoking, or a nail fungus; they may also be a sign of possible thyroid problems, diabetes, and respiratory disease; unchecked dark streaks or painful growths on the nail may lead to melanoma, a malignant form of skin cancer.
  • Horizontal or vertical ridges – horizontal ridges (Beau’s lines) may be caused by trauma, from a high fever or may even signal psoriasis, circulatory disease, or severe zinc deficiency; a more rare type of horizontal ridges (Mees’ lines) are due to arsenic poising, carbon monoxide poisoning, malaria, or leprosy; vertical ridges along the nail may be a normal part of aging, or may indicate vitamin B12 or magnesium deficiencies.
  • Spoon nails, clubbing, or pitting – nails curved upward with a spoon-like appearance may be a warning sign for iron-deficiency anaemia, haemochromatosis (excess iron absorption), hypothyroidism, or heart disease; nails curved downward with swollen fingertips may mean low oxygen in your blood or a possible lung disease; if your nail has multiple pits or dents, it should alert you to the possibility of psoriasis and alopecia.
  • Dry, cracked, or brittle nails – these may be related to lifestyle habits such as frequent washing of dishes, or even a vitamin deficiency or thyroid problem.
  • White spots – may be due to trauma but in some rare cases, may be signs of a fungal infection.

Dermatologist Flor A. Mayoral, clinical instructor in the departments of dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, US, said that learning how to manage the effects of stress can help alleviate some of the outward symptoms.

“Stress affects people differently […] sometimes patients with nail problems are not aware that their habits or tics from being stressed out or nervous are at the root of their problem. I find that initially giving them the power to fix the problem is very empowering to them – being in control of your situation can help relieve stress.”


Category: Features, Wellness and Complementary Therapies

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