Nails are hard covering on the tips of our fingers and toes, that is made of a tough protein called alpha-keratin. While nails protect our hands and feet, the fact is that they are seen as a purely aesthetic feature and are often decorated with polish and colour.

However, our bare nails can indicate the health of the person. The shape, texture and colour of one’s nails can point to certain diseases. According to American Academy of Dermatology, “Nails often reflect our general state of health. Changes in the nail, such as discoloration or thickening, can signal health problems including liver and kidney diseases, heart and lung conditions, anemia, and diabetes."

Healthy nails grow at an average of 3.5mm a month. If you notice any swelling, discolorations, change in shape and thickness, see a dermatologist.

Yellow Nails: Nails turn yellow due to frequent use of acrylic nails or nail colours. Smoking stains nails as well. Yellow nails could also be a fungal infection. However, if your nails turn bright yellow in colour, check for thyroid, diabetes, psoriasis or respiratory disease.

Dry, Cracked Nails: Dry and cracked nails are common for people who wash dishes regularly, swimming and are exposed to chemicals. Splitting of the nails is also caused by a fungal infection, hypothyroidism, deficiency of vitamins A, B and C.

Clubbed Nails: Clubbed nails makes your finger-tips look enlarged and nails turn downwards. Unfortunately, it is a sign of low oxygen levels in the blood and is associated with lung disease. Clubbed nails are related to liver or kidney disease, heart ailments, inflammatory bowel and AIDS.

Horizontal Ridges: Horizontal ridges form on nails due to trauma or serious illness associated with fever such as Scarlet fever or pneumonia. These ridges can also be formed due to psoriasis, uncontrolled diabetes and deficiency of zinc. Few lines can also suggest arsenic poisoning, Hodgkin’s Disease, malaria, leprosy and poisoning of carbon monoxide.

Dark Discolorations: Black streaks or painful growths are not a good sign. See a doctor immediately to rule out melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.