9 nail signs that point to serious health problems
Some of the problems to look out for include brittle, fragile and slow-growing nails. iStock
Health experts say that the things occurring on your nails can reflect your health – it can signify medical conditions or skin issues. The Sun reports that a dermatologist in the US, Dr Andrea Suarez, who is an internet skin expert sensation has warned that certain signs in your nails could reveal a sinister condition.
The doctor has warned of nine problems including slow-growing, fragile and brittle nails.
According to the doctor, the very common white spots you see on your nails could mean you have an underactive thyroid. She is reported to have said that these spots can be an “early clue” of thyroid disease – characterised by an underactive or overactive thyroid gland (the gland that produces hormones).
An underactive thyroid gland is known as hypothyroidism, whereas (when you have an overactive thyroid gland) it is known as hyperthyroidism.
The Sun informs that getting these conditions diagnosed is important to help avoid further problems with your pregnancy, heart and your vision.
In her YouTube video, Dr Andrea is reported to have said, “I wanted to share this video with you all because untreated thyroid disease is deadly.
“It starts out with things like feeling lethargic or feeling jittery, depending on what the nature of the underlying thyroid problem is.
“But I want to emphasise that the nail findings I’m sharing with you, they’re not specific for a problem with the thyroid.
“So, if you have these, don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that you have a problem with your thyroid.”
Here’s a list of the nine problems you should look out for:
1. Brittle nails
Brittle nails are more common in underactive thyroid because there is “decreased blood flow to the fingertips.”
According to Dr Andrea, “Twenty-two per cent of cases of brittle nails associated with thyroid disease were seen in people with autoimmune thyroid problems whereas 14 per cent were seen in those with non-autoimmune thyroid disease.”
2. Slow growth of nails
When you have an underactive thyroid, your body is trying harder to preserve heat – this is done by reducing blood flow to the extremities, explains Dr Andrea.
“So, if you notice that your nails are really brittle and growing very slowly that may be a clue that your thyroid hormone is low,” she told The Sun.
3. Spoon nails or koilonychia
“Spoon nails” is when your nail quite literally looks like a spoon. This condition which is reportedly seen with an overactive thyroid, but it is not specific to thyroid disease alone.
It can also happen with disease such as diabetes, anaemia, and psoriasis, says Dr Andrea.
“This is a type of dystrophy in which the nail plate is depressed centrally and elevated laterally so it literally looks like a little spoon.
“One way to assess for this is to look at the nail and take a little drop of water and place it on the nail plate.
“If you have spoon nails that droplet of water will actually stay on the nail plate whereas if you don’t it’ll fall off to the sides.”
4. Fragile nails
Having fragile nails is supposedly the most common indication of an underactive thyroid gland.
Speaking about the reason why the nails get fragile with an underactive thyroid gland, Dr Andrea reportedly said, “That makes sense again, because the blood vessels are probably clamping down in an effort to preserve core body temperature you’re not getting.”
5. White spots
Medically known as leukonychia, white spots are reportedly a rare feature of an underactive thyroid. The white spots could be a result of psoriasis, pregnancy or even the result of a bad manicure, states Dr Andrea.
6. Crumbling nails
“In hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) nail growth is usually normal or increased [called monocolysis]” says Dr Andrea.
She adds that because the nails are softer, they are “more vulnerable to lifting up off the underlying supportive structures” – which makes them crumbly.
7. Lifting in nails
Those with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) sweat excessively and this could be the cause of lifting in the nails, notes Dr Andrea.
The condition is known as onycholysis and it is a “really common finding across the board” of thyroid issues.
Dr Andrea is reported to have said, “Onycholysis refers to a separation of the nail plate from the underlying structures and as it lifts up, air gets underneath.
“The nail plate looks like a big white smear, a big white spot.” She adds, though it starts off at the tip of the nail it can expand towards the cuticle.
8. Pitting in nails
When dents can be noticed in your nails, it could be a sign of eczema, psoriasis or alopecia. However, it is rarely a sign of an underactive thyroid. The pitting can range in size from a needle pin to a crayon tip.
Dr Andrea says, “But if you’re noticing these nail changes again, bring it to the attention of your healthcare provider.”
Fingernail clubbing is an uncommon feature reported to occur in about one per cent of people with Grave’s disease (the leading cause of an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism.
Dr Andrea explains that “The reason this happens is that patients who have Grave’s disease, which is an autoimmune disease, make anti-thyroid antibodies.
“Those antibodies actually can bind to keratinocytes, endothelial cells, fat cells, causing them to make more hyaluronic acid and other glycosaminoglycans.
“That leads to swelling of the tissues around the nail and what appears as clubbing.”
The Sun reports, this condition which could be hereditary, can also be due to many other health conditions like heart disease, Crohn’s, cystic fibrosis or cancers. However, about 80 to 90 per cent of finger clubbing cases are caused by lung cancer.