DETROIT (WWJ) – Health experts say that you can tell a lot about what’s going on inside your body by looking at your finger nails.

Some changes to your nails are a result of getting older, says Dermatologist Thomas Knackstedt of the Cleveland Clinic — but other nail changes can offer clues about an undiagnosed, potentially serious, health problem.

“The common things we see – white spots on the nail. For ages people have said that’s related to calcium deficiency or need for more iron,” Knackstedt told WWJ’s Dr. Deanna Lites. “It can be, but in most people it’s just friction and rubbing to the cuticle and the nail fold. That causes little pits of trauma in that area.”

However, Knackstedt said, dry, brittle nails that frequently crack or split, for example have been linked to thyroid disease. Very pale nails, he said, can sometimes be a sign of anemia.

Indentations that run across the nails, called “Beau’s lines,” can be associated with uncontrolled diabetes or a zinc deficiency; while darkness under the nail could be caused by melanoma (skin cancer) and should be checked out.

“Individuals, especially adults, who develop a brown line growing out in one of their nails, and that line subsequently either widens or darkens or starts to change colors; that’s something that should be evaluated by a physician just like a changing freckle or mole,” Knackstedt said.

Other illnesses that may show signs in your nails include stress (side-to-side lines), arthritis (small cysts on or near the cuticle), kidney disease (yellow-red discoloration) and Psoriasis (white streaks or spots, Beau’s lines, or ridged nails).

Those who notice these symptoms should contact a doctor.


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