10 Health Warnings That Show Up on Your Nails

nails manicure hands
(Photo: iStock)

It’s never a productive endeavor to try and diagnose yourself with a medical condition -- step away from the Web M.D., Womanistas.

However, it’s always smart to be proactive about your health by being aware of certain physical signs that may signal there’s a problem.

Some symptoms are blatantly obvious, but there are others you might look right over and never think twice about. Case in point: what's happening on your fingernails. The sight, texture and strength of your nails can tell you a lot about your health and any abnormalities that might be lurking.

As always, since everyone’s body is different and there could be several possible explanations for every symptom, you should absolutely consult your doctor first before self-diagnosis or taking any action steps.

Discolored Nails

Discolored nails can indicate infection or a nutritional deficiency, among other things. Yellow nails can mean something as simple as having nail polish on for too long, while brown nails can indicate thyroid disease. White nails may mean an iron deficiency, while bluish-gray tones might mean your body isn’t getting enough oxygen.

Brittle Nails

Dry, brittle nails that crack have been linked to thyroid disease as well as fungal infections. However, they can also be a sign of aging or long-term exposure to harsh chemicals.

Thickened Nails

This is another condition that could be caused by a fungal infection; however, yellow, slow-growing, thickened nails can also form after a longstanding injury or poor circulation.

Spoon-Shaped Nails

These types of nails curve inward and look as if they are scooping outward, and they can reveal a condition known as koilonychia, which is tied to anemia. Other causes include a surplus of iron or hypothyroidism.

Pitted Nails

There’s no reason to be alarmed if you find small depressions in your nails, as it is mainly a genetic occurrence. However, psoriasis, reactive arthritis, eczema and alopecia have all been linked with this symptom.

Grooved Nails

Grooves in your nails are believed to be a result of nutritional deficiencies, chemotherapy, diabetes or prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures.

Nail Clubbing

When the nails curve around the fingertips, it’s usually harmless and probably genetic. However, if your nail beds all of the sudden begin to soften and fluctuate in size, it might mean you’re experiencing low oxygen levels in your blood.

White Lines

White lines across your nails can indicate lower levels of protein in the blood, which can be caused during times of stress or malnutrition.

Dark Stripes


These are generally harmless, but in the worst case scenario they can be a sign of subungual melanoma, a form of cancer on the toes or fingers. Consult a doctor if you notice any change in the pigmentation of nail folds or the appearance of any dark stripes.

Red or Brown Streaks

These could be tiny, damaged blood vessels and they’re normally nothing to fret over. In other cases, they can indicate inflammation issues or swelling, which as associated with arthritis and psoriasis.