If you think that the tests for the blood, urine or stool are the only way to find out about your well-being. You are so mistaken! The human body can very much disclose a lot about itself. Just like the forehead can unveil everything about a person’s digestive health and the chin can reveal about ongoing hormonal conditions, similarly, the nails can speak volumes about a person's inner health. Sounds interesting, does it? Well, it is, we may think it is just dead cells, that we usually cut off as it grows, but in reality, it is so much more!

Also Read: Covid Nails: Know All About This Symptom While Recovering From Covid-19
overview of nail disorders

What Are Nails?

Anatomically, a nail is chiefly defined as a horn-like envelope covering the tips of the fingers and toes in humans, most non-human primates, and a few other mammals. Finger and toe nails are similar to claws in other animals.

A fingernail is usually made of tough, protective protein called keratin and is produced by living skin cells in the finger. It mainly consists of several parts including the nail plate (the visible part of the nail), the nail bed (the skin beneath the nail plate), the cuticle (the tissue that overlaps the plate and rims the base of the nail), the nail folds (the skin folds that frame and support the nail on three sides), the lunula (the whitish half-moon at the base of the nail) and the matrix (the hidden part of the nail unit under the cuticle).

Fingernails mainly grows from the matrix. As new cells grow in the matrix, the older cells are pushed out, compacted, which then takes on the familiar flattened, hardened form of the fingernail that we see. The average growth rate for nails is approximately 0.1 mm each day (or 1 centimeter in 100 days). The exact rate of nail growth depends on numerous factors including the age and sex of the individual and even the time of year. It generally grows faster in young people, in males, that too mostly in the summers.

Also Read: Beau's Lines On Nails: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

In a healthy individual, the nails are flesh-colored with white tips. With a subtle shine, the cuticles should look healthy. If the appearance of the nails differs from normal in any way; especially in terms of shape, size or color then it is a red signal to look out for and might indicate an underlying health condition. Keep reading to learn what secrets your nails might unfold.

Nail Colours And The Underlying Health Condition They Denote

White Nails

If the nails are partly or entirely white with a pink band at the top of the nail bed, then it is called Terry's nails, and it may signify a serious health anomaly. Usually, the white half-moon area at the base of the nail is called the lunula. In case of Terry's nails, the lunula cannot be distinguished from the rest of the nail. When this appears, it suggests your body's veins have changed beneath the nail. It usually indicates protein deficiency, chronic kidney failure, cirrhosis of the liver, congestive heart failure or anemia.

Sometimes, there can be white spots on the nails, which usually signifies zinc or iron, deficiency, injury to the nail bed, arthritis, or even blood poisoning.

Apart from health anomalies, white nails can also be a normal indication of ageing or be present in some due to a harmless genetic trait.

Yellow Nails

One of the preliminary causes of yellow nails is fungal infection. Without treatment, if the infection worsens with time, the nail bed may retract, and the nails may gradually thicken and crumble. Yellow nails may also indicate problems related to the lymphatic system, respiratory woes, diabetes or liver anomalies. In very rare cases, the so-called "yellow nail syndrome" (YNS) occurs in patients with serious lung disease and swelling of the extremities (lymphedema). Even use of tobacco yellows the nails in smokers.

Blue Nails

Nails with a bluish appearance or with a purplish undertone usually suggests that the body isn’t getting enough supply of oxygen and may indicate a condition called ‘azure lunula’, medically referring to cyanosis. Bluish tint of nails may also indicate that the person is suffering from argyria (silver poisoning), Hepatolenticular degeneration (Wilson's disease), Raynaud's disease (where the fingers and toes shrink, then turn blue and may become numb or painful on exposure to cold), septicemia (blood poisoning), lung or breathing troubles (Including emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis, or asthma). It may also reveal a high percentage of abnormal form of haemoglobin in the blood, occupational hazards, HIV infection or a side effect of certain medications.

Black Nails

If the outer dead keratin layer of the nails has a blackish tint, it mainly suggests signs of anemia, bacterial infection, chronic kidney disease, adrenal problems, B12 deficiency, liver disease, silver deposits, certain forms of cancer or melanoma or even an injury or trauma.

Grey Nails

There are a number of reasons for the nails to have a greyish undertone. It usually indicates edema, malnutrition, arthritis, glaucoma, lung problems, emphysema, cardio-pulmonary disease and even post operation side effects.

Green Nails

In case the nails of a person are greenish in colour, do help him or her out to understand that it might indicate a bacterial infection (due to the Bacillus bacterium), localized fungal infection, severe emphysema or even allergic side effects to certain cleaning agents.

Red Nails

Although the normal colour of the nail is skin colour with a pinkish undertone, in case the nails in a person are dark red in colour, it might signify heart disease, a possible brain haemorrhage, high blood pressure, lung disease, stroke or even carbon mono oxide poisoning.

Dark Lines Beneath The Nail Bed

There are a number of reasons for the appearance of a vertical brown or black streak extending from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. It can be an indicative of kidney disease or even melanoma (skin cancer).

Changes in colours of the nails are only a small symptom for the underlying health conditions one might be suffering from, however, they must not be ignored. In case you observe any of the above-mentioned changes in your nails, do consult a doctor about it at the earliest to get it diagnosed.