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Fingernails and your Health

Updated on May 22, 2010

Health nails are strong, smooth and translucent in color. Severe illness, chemical toxins, prescription medications, fungal infections, heart disease, lung disease, and nutritional deficiencies may change the shape, smoothness, growth rate, and color of your nails.


  • Black bands on the nails - low adrenal function; chemotherapy or radiation reaction.
  • Black, splinter-like bits under the nails - possible sign of infectious endocarditis - a serious heart infection; possible sign of other heart disease; possible sign of a bleeding disorder.
  • Black nails - may show up in diabetes and other forms of gangrene.
  • Blue nails - lung and heart problems; drug reaction; blood toxicity from toomuch silver or copper. An isolated dark-blue band in the nail bed - especially in light-skinned people, can be a sign of skin cancer.
  • Deep blue nail beds - show a pulmonary obstructive disorder such as asthma or emphysema.
  • Brown nails - may be due to arsenical poisoning.
  • Brown-black nails - often indicate chronic mercurial poisoning due to formation of sulfide of mercury.
  • Discolored nails - Vitamin B12 deficiency; kidney or liver problems.
  • Green nails - bacterial infection under the nail
  • Greenish-looking nails - if not a result of a localized fungal infection, may indicate an internal bacterial infection
  • White bands on the nails - zinc and protein deficiency; possible heart disease, kidney or liver problems.
  • White lines in nails - show possible heart disease, high fever, or arsenic poisoning.
  • White nails with pink tips - liver cirrhosis.
  • A half-white nail with dark spots at the tip - points to possible kidney disease.
  • Too white nails - liver or kidney disorders; poor circulation; anemia; general mineral deficiency.
  • Two white horizontal bands that do not move as the nail grows - protein deficiency in the blood.
  • White spots - zinc, thyroid or hydrochloride deficiency.
  • Yellow nails or elevation of the nail tips - can indicate internal disorders long before other symptoms appear i.e. lymphatic system problems, respiratory disorders, diabetes, liver disorders, vitamin E deficiency, poor circulation, lymph congestion, and too much nail polish.

Nail Shapes & Smoothness

  • Brittle or peeling nails - possible impaired kidney function, Vitamin A & D deficiency, poor circulation, thyroid problems, iron, calcium or HCI deficiency.
  • Brittle, soft, shiny nails without a moon - may indicate an overactive thyroid.
  • Down curving nails - heart and liver disorders, possible respiratory problems.
  • Dry, malformed nails - may be to trophic changes resulting from injury to nerve or finger, neuritis, Raynaud's disease, pulmonary osteoarthropathy, syphilis, inflammation of the nail bed, scleroderma, acrodermatitis, and granuloma fungoides of the fingers.
  • Flat nails - can denote Raynaud's disease.
  • "Hammered-metal" looking nails - indicates a tendency toward partial or total hair loss.
  • Horizontal ridges - can be a result of severe stress, either psychological or physical such as from infection and/or disease. Ridges running up and down the nails also indicate a tendency to develop arthritis.
  • Nail beading - (development of bumps on nail surface) - a sign of lunch damage, such as from emphysema or exposure to asbestos.
  • Nails that broaden toward the tip and curve downward - sugn of lung damage, such as from emphysema or exposure to asbestos.
  • Nails that chip, peel, crack, or break easily - show a general nutritional deficiency, insufficient hydrochloric acid, protein deficiency, and possible mineral deficiency.
  • Nails separated from the nail bed - may signify a thyroid disorder or possible local infection.
  • Nails rased at the base, with small white ends - shown a respiratory disorder such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis. Of note - this type of nail may also simply be inherited.
  • No half moons or ridged nails - Vitamin A deficiency, kidney disorder, protein deficiency.
  • Pitted, fraying, split nails - Vitamin C and protein deficiency, eczema/psoriasis problems.
  • Pitted red-brown spots and frayed and split ends - indicate psoriasis. It would also indicate that vitamin C, folic acid and protein are needed.
  • Poor growth and shape - iron and zinc deficiency.
  • Spoon-shaped nails - anemia, B12 deficiency.
  • Thick nails - poor circulation, possible thyroid problems.
  • Thinning nails - may signal lichen planus - an itch skin disorder.
  • Unusually wide, square nails - can suggest a hormone disorder.
  • Vertical ridges - indicate poor general health, poor nutrient absorption, iron deficiency, possible kidney disorder.

Moon Area of the Nail

  • If the moon area of the nail turns red - it may indicate heart problems.
  • If the moon area of the nail turns slate blue - it can indicate either heavy metal poisoning, i.e. silver poisoning. It can also indicate lung trouble.

On a last note, red skin around the cuticles may be a possible indication of poor metabolism of essential fatty acids or a possible indication of a connective tissue disorder such as lupus.

Sources: Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary; Prescription for Nutritional Healing; Healthy Healing; The Doctor's Complete Guide to Vitamins and Minerals.


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