What Do Your Toenails Tell About Your Health?

The shape, texture, and shade of your toenails can actually tell you things about your health that you may not otherwise be alerted to. Some symptoms of health issues can be seen when changes in your toenails occur. Heart, liver, lung, and other problems can be revealed when you understand how to ‘read’ toenail health clues.

Toenail Color

A healthy toenail is a shade of pale pink, much like your fingernail. Any yellowing or tinges of black color means something is not right. For example, if your toenails become yellow, you probably have a fungal infection. Yellowing can also be the result of smoking or a side effect of diabetes or a liver condition.

Scattered white spots on your toenails may indicate the beginning of a fungal infection. Over time, that toenail, and perhaps other adjacent nails if the condition spreads, will thicken and become a cloudy yellow-brown color. Aside from the white flecks, you may also note some green and black spots. The nail fungus can make your toenail hard to cut due to its thickness. Eventually, your nails will get brittle and crumble, cause you pain, swell up, and make walking more difficult. At the first sign of white speckles on your toenail, it’s a good idea to consult a foot specialist.

A toenail that has a bluish tinge can be a symptom of Raynaud’s disease. When blood isn’t properly circulating to your extremities, oxygen is lowered and your nails turn blue. Your nail may even turn a purple color, meaning you have a circulatory issue.

Black toenails indicate an injury beneath your nail, but it can also be a symptom of a bacterial infection, a deficiency of Vitamin B12, or anemia. In extreme instances, black toenails can be a sign of cancer or liver or kidney disease. Dark streaks underneath the nail can signal a hidden melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer.

If your toenails are white, you should be tested for anemia. If there are white stripes or bands going across the nail, you may be lacking enough protein in your diet.

Toenails that turn gray may be a symptom of malnutrition, lung disease, or even arthritis.

If you are allergic to certain chemicals in cleaning products or makeup, your toenails may turn a greenish color. Green on your nails may also mean you have an infection.


Change in Toenail Texture

If you notice small pits or grooves on your toenails, you may have psoriasis. This condition is not the same as having skin psoriasis. Respiratory illness, malnutrition, or alopecia can also be indicated with pitting.


Shape Changes

A definite indentation in your toenail is called a spoon-shaped toenail, also known as Koilonychia. Spoon-shaped indents can indicate an iron deficiency, lupus, or Raynaud’s disease.

Sometimes a toenail can curl downwards, covering the top of the toes, especially if the tips of your toes have become enlarged. This may be signaling a serious illness, such as lung cancer, a heart ailment, or inflammatory bowel syndrome.

As you age, you will likely develop vertical ridges on your toenails, which is a normal condition. However, if the ridges are horizontal, you may have a condition known as Beau’s illness. This may be caused by trauma or a recent illness or surgery. If you have horizontal ridges on your nails and have not recently endured a serious condition, the ridge can indicate diabetes, circulatory problems, or a zinc deficiency. When the ridges are also discolored, they are called Bees’ lines and can foretell serious illnesses, such as malaria or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Thyroid disease and conditions can loosen your toenails from the nail beds. If your toenail separates from the nail bed or becomes loose, consult a physician at American Foot and Leg Specialists for diagnosis and treatment. If you note any changes in color, texture, shape or feel in your toenails, it’s important that you look into what may be going on in your body.

You can also come to American Foot and Leg Specialists for help with your bunion, a common foot issue for many, and various other conditions. We have four convenient locations in Georgia: Fayetteville, Forest Park, Locust Grove, and Stockbridge.

This article does not take the place of professional medical advice please call our staff with questions or make an appointment with one of our physicians or an M.D. in your area.

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