If you’ve ever made an appointment with a dermatologist, you might have noticed one of their pre-appointment instructions was to remove your nail polish. But why? According to women’s health expert and advocate Marla Ahlgrimm, it is because your fingernails say a lot about your overall health. Read on as Ahlgrimm answers reader questions about the fingernail/health connection.
Q: I’ve recently noticed a dark streak underneath my fingernail. Should I get that checked out?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Yes, dark streaks that run from the cuticle to the tip may indicate a potentially deadly skin cancer known as melanoma. Some fungal infections can also turn the nail bed dark green or gray. A blue tint underneath the nails could be a sign of a circulatory problem involving the lungs or heart.
Q: Should I worry about thin or brittle fingernails?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Some people have naturally thin nails. However, nails that are so thin they bow up are an indicator of a possible case of iron deficiency anemia. Brittle, easily breakable nails could point to hyperthyroidism, especially when accompanied with excessively dry or unusually thin hair.
Q: Are longitudinal and horizontal ridges normal?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Often, a horizontal line is a sign that there was a specific trauma, illness, or metabolic disruption for an extended period. A vertical ridge, on the other hand, is common with age and is a clue that the nail matrix has begun to dry out. It may be possible to reduce the appearance of vertical lines by using a moisturizing emollient on the nail bed and cuticles.
Q: What color should my fingernails actually be?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Healthy fingernails tend to have a pronounced white to very light pink lunula – the crescent shape at your nail bed. The middle of the nails should be a fairly consistent flesh to pink color. Healthy fingernails protruding beyond the skin are typically an eggshell to cream color. Very white fingernails may indicate liver disease and should brought to your doctor’s attention as soon as possible.