Your Fingernails Might Hold Vital Health Clues—From Cancer Signs to Heart Warnings and Dietary Deficits

Your Fingernails Might Hold Vital Health Clues—From Cancer Signs to Heart Warnings and Dietary Deficits

Cancer Patient’s Nails Reveal Chemotherapy Side Effects

A cancer patient observed unexplained white lines on his fingernails that emerged during his chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma.

Identified as transverse leukonychia or Mees’ lines, these harmless lines were associated with the chemotherapy regimen, representing a common side effect observed in around 40 percent of patients undergoing chemo.

Fingernails as Health Indicators

Fingernails, primarily composed of keratin, can signal significant health information, reflecting conditions like heart issues, arthritis, or circulation problems.

Dermatologists advocate for self-examination of nails, emphasizing their potential as early indicators of severe bodily issues.

Vertical and Horizontal Lines as Indicators

Vertical lines, considered a natural sign of aging, can also result from excessive handwashing or sanitizer use. However, these practices, common during the pandemic, can strip healthy oils and bacteria, leaving hands vulnerable to infections. In rare cases, a seemingly innocuous blue or purple spot under the nail could indicate skin cancer, specifically subungual melanoma.

Maintaining Nail Hygiene

Experts recommend regular trimming and cleaning of nails to prevent harboring dirt and germs. Hygiene practices include keeping nails short, scrubbing the undersides, cleaning grooming tools, avoiding nail-biting or cuticle cutting, and ensuring sterilization in nail salons.

Nail Discolorations and Their Significance

Certain discolorations, like red streaks, merit close observation. While they could be indicative of trauma or bruising, they might also signal bacterial endocarditis—a severe heart infection. Clubbed nails, curving over finger sides, might signal heart or lung issues due to blood circulation problems.

Dietary Factors and Nail Health

Brittle or breaking nails might signal nutritional deficits, particularly a lack of iron. Maintaining a balanced diet rich in nutrients is crucial for healthy nails. For comprehensive nail health assessments, removing polish before a skin check is recommended by dermatologists.

Regular Self-Examination

Periodic self-examination of nails, combined with yearly dermatologist-recommended skin checks, serves as a proactive measure to monitor and identify potential health warnings indicated by fingernail conditions.

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