•  

Look closely at your nails. Do they look strong and healthy? Or do you see dents, ridges or areas of unusual color or shape? Many of these nail conditions can be avoided through proper care, but some actually indicate an illness that requires attention.

Although your nails often go unnoticed, they play an important role, serving to improve dexterity and help protect your fingers. It is important to keep them healthy and to accomplish this, it is helpful to learn more about them. 

To better understand the clues that fingernails can give you to your general health, we will describe the different parts of your fingernail and some common conditions that many often experience.

Anatomy of Fingernails:

Your nails are made up of keratin or laminated layers of protein.  Each nail is comprised of several different parts: nail plate, nail folds, nail bed, cuticle, and lunulaw6_fingernail

  • Nail plate – the hard portion of the nail that is most visible. 
  • Nail folds – the skin that frames three sides of your nail. 
  • Nail bed – is as it sounds, a bed for the plate (the skin underneath the nail plate). 
  • Cuticle  – consists of the tissue that overlaps the base of your nail plate and protects the new keratin cells that grow on the nail bed. 
  • Lunula  – is the whitish, half-moon shape at the base of your nail underneath the plate.

Now that you know the different parts of your fingernail, we can focus on what condition they are in and what that condition indicates.

Healthy nails are smooth, without ridges or grooves. They are uniform in color and consistency, and free of spots or discoloration.

Some of the common nail conditions are harmless such as vertical ridges, white lines or spots.  These are often associated with aging or injury. Verticle Ridging

Other conditions can indicate disease such as yellow discoloration, your nail pulling away from the nail bed, and indentations that run across your nails (Beau’s lines). 

Yellow discoloration may result from a respiratory condition, such as chronic bronchitis, or from swelling of your hands (lymphedema) or from yeast or bacterial infection beneath the nail.

If your nail pulls away from the nail bed, it could indicate psoriasis or intolerance to certain medications.

Beau’s lines (Indentations that run across your nails) appear when growth at the area under your cuticle is interrupted. This might occur because of an injury or severe illness.

You can learn ways to ensure your nails remain healthy in our article, "Six Tips for Healthier Nails".

If you have a nail problem that persists or is associated with other signs and symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out.

Something to say?