This is why you shouldn’t bite your fingernails down to nubs.
Those tasty nails can actually benefit us more than helping us pick up or hold things – they’re indicators if something is off with us, internally.
Here are five fingernail red flags to keep an eye on, and what each could mean:
The good news: vertical ridges are more or less harmless.
“Lengthwise ridges, if they are evenly spaced over the whole nail, are common and harmless, and generally associated with normal ageing and the nail’s increasing inability to retain moisture,” explains Dr. Jessica Krant, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
So, they’re like wrinkles. But for your nails.
Aging is the typical cause of ridges, though they can also point to a vitamin and/or mineral deficiency, and sometimes, rheumatoid arthritis.
Vanity aside, it’s best to shy away from buffing off those ridges. Being the thinnest part of the nail, it’s susceptible to splitting when buffed. As an alternative to getting rid of ridges, opt for moisturizing throughout the day with a thicker lotion – Vitamin E or petroleum jelly are perfect.
Also known as ‘Beau’s lines’, horizontal ridges may point to a more problematic issue.
As the Mayo Clinic explains, “Conditions associated with Beau’s lines include uncontrolled diabetes and peripheral vascular disease, as well as illnesses associated with a high fever, such as scarlet fever, measles, mumps and pneumonia.” Additionally, horizontal ridges can also signify a low zinc count.
If ridges regularly occur, it’s a clear sign of a problem that’s bigger than just the nail – which may be kidney, lung, or liver diseases.
White marks on fingernails are extremely common, and thankfully, they aren’t worrisome in any way.
The little white marks – or punctate leukonychia – arise from some form of trauma to the nail. It could be as simple as crushing your nail between two surfaces, or even flicking a pen.
White marks appear from the base of nail beds, and over time, naturally grow out. By the time they’re noticed, you usually forget about how they got there anyway.
According to The Mirror, in extremely rare cases, if the white mark stretches across your entire nail, it could mean you’ve been poisoned.
But hey, always remember: “If you can see them…you can’t have been because if you had, you’d almost certainly already be dead.”
Are you comforted yet?
Like white marks, yellow nails are nothing to sweat about.
Yellow nails are a natural sign of aging, says Health.com; they can also be the result from extensive use of nail polish or acrylic nails. And of course, smoking can lead to discoloured nails.
But if the yellow nails are thicker than normal, and somewhat ‘crumbly’, it may be a fungal infection. And that’s when it’s time to consult your physician.
Cracking and extreme dryness
Cracking nails indicates a lack of moisture on your nail plates.
“This could be from swimming, overuse of nail polish remover, frequent dishwashing without gloves, or just from living in a low-humidity environment,” Dr. Debra Jaliman, a New York City-based dermatologist, told Health.com.
Cracking or extreme dryness can also be the byproduct of natural aging.
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