Could Our Nails Be The Crystal Ball To Our Health? Here We Nail Down The Truth
Fingernails grow an average of 3.5 millimeters per month, with fingernails on your dominant hand tending to grow faster. They are made of a protein called keratin (same as your hair,) and they are one thing we can get into shape without exercise! However, the cells require nutrients just like any other part of our body. Biotin (vitamin B7), folate (vitamin B9) and iron can play a huge role in the steady growth and repair.
When you glance at your nails, do you ever notice horizontal or vertical ridges or lines? Are they brittle and fragile? If so, then the saying really is true, it's all fun and games until someone breaks a nail!
Most nail problems are caused by simple injuries or biting your nails. Staining your nails, for example, by smoking or applying a lot of nail varnish. Not regularly trimming your nails, or cutting them at an angle. Washing your hands often or using cleaning products. Along with fungal nail infection.
However, nail problems can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious or long-term condition, such as, nail psoriasis, eczema, nutritional deficiencies, an under or over active thyroid and diabetes, heart, kidney, lung or liver disease. Some medicines can also cause nail problems.
Stress can also be messing with your nails, as it makes it harder for your body to absorb vital minerals. If you have been having a difficult time in your life, it could very well show up through your well manicured nails, just like you might notice thinning hair or a breakout in other circumstances.
However there are many other factors, so for now, let’s imagine that it’s not stress. In which case it might could be down to the potential "grab-a-flat-white-and-a-banana-don’t-eat-til-dinner" workplace culture, as protein, iron, vitamin a, calcium, magnesium and zinc deficiencies are most likely to show up on the nails, so make sure you are getting enough of these nutrients.
Considering supplements isn't a bad idea, especially if you’re off dairy and might not get much calcium through your diet, being vegan for example. Although, zinc is found in lots of seeds, nuts, whole grains. While vitamin A is in sweet potatoes, red peppers, carrots and green leafy veg, so even if you are vegan, there are natural ways to fill up on goodness.
If you’re fairly sure you’re full of the necessary nutrients, a trip to your GP to get a blood test or a urine sample might give you a more specific breakdown of what you could be lacking, or outline another potential health situation, as changes or concerns about your nails should investigated. During your appointment, your doctor can examine your nails and ask about any other symptoms you’re experiencing.
Multiple deep horizontal ridges across the fingernail can indicate a more serious health issue, often known as Beau's lines. These ridges are commonly caused by diseases that affect the entire body. Systemic causes include a common side effect of diabetes, thyroid issues, chemotherapy, nutritional deficiencies, illnesses accompanied by high fever, metabolic conditions, syphilis and diminished blood flow to the fingers.
Vertical ridges, referred to as longitudinal ridging is found on the nails in the shape of vertical marks or lines running from the base of the fingernail to the top. The ridges are raised lines that can be caused by a number of factors. Most people will have a couple of these lines even if they are perfectly healthy. The most common reason for the formation of vertical ridges in the absence of actual disease is the lack of moisture and improper nutrition. As the nails age their capacity to absorb nutrients diminishes and this naturally affects their growth. The vertical ridges often form in ageing nails.
Little white marks you may witness come and go on your nails, known as milk spots (or punctate leukonychia,) are just the remnants of any kind of trauma to the nail, from slamming it in a door to chewing on it too fervently.
Picking, biting and/or stroking the nail can cause vertical ridges. Keeping your nails hydrated with a hand cream or oil can minimise the appearance of ridging and protect the keratin of the nail. So dose up on the cuticle oil at least twice a day (there’s no such thing as too much,) and take comfort that your nails are always regrowing and regenerating.
Buffing your fingernails with an emery board may help smooth ridges. You can always ask your dermatologist for advice on treating your nails, as you’ll want to be careful not to press too hard to avoid further damage. If the cause of your fingernail ridges is still unclear, your dermatologist may take some fingernail clippings to have them analysed in a lab for signs of infection.