Saturday, January 8, 2011

Care for your nails

Clean and well-manicured nails often help to make a good impression and we often spend a lot of time and effort in trying to beautify them.

But nails are more indicative about a person than just the hygiene habits. They are also good health indicators and a sure-shot give-away for many diseases. These symptoms are different from the nail-related diseases and it's important to be able to read the correct tell-tale signs, as they may warn you about a disease that you may be unaware of. Though the nail in itself is nothing but a dead tissue, the areas under the cuticle and the nail are alive and these areas make the nail vulnerable to damage or infection. Hence diseases can easily manifest themselves on nails.

"It is true that nails often give us clues to diseases occurring inside the body. Not only do they tell you about your present health, but also about your past trauma or illness. For instance, horizontal lines and depressions medically termed as Beau's lines can tell you about about your past illness or white spots/white lines on a nail suggests a random injury to the nail bed," says city-based health writer Dr Parul R Sheth.

Calling them windows to an individual's overall health, head or dermatology Dr Nina Madnani explains, "When we examine a patient we always examine the nails too. Like the skin, nails are excellent indicators of what's going on inside your body. If your nails are healthy — smooth and pink with a slightly curved surface — your body is probably healthy too."

Talking about the possible reasons, she adds, "The discolouration or disfiguration could be due to several reasons and they may be systemic or a result of a local nail infection. For example, the yellowing of nails could be due to excessive use of nail polish or nail hardeners, but it could also indicate jaundice."

Nails also tend to absorb various substances, so it isn't uncommon to notice slight discolouration in the nails of a person who smokes regularly or a person who deals with certain chemicals having nails of a bluish tinge. "Any change in tone and texture should be looked into immediately," says dermatologist Dr Sunil Tahiliani.

What nails indicate:

- If you have brittle nails, then you may be iron deficient. They are also indicators for biotin deficiency, kidney disorder, thyroid or circulation problems.

- Thickening of nails indicate circulation problems.

- Concave nails (bent inwards) are a symptom of iron deficiency and/or lack of Vitamin B12.

- The deficiency of Vitamn C makes the nails to split or become frayed.

They could also indicate psoriasis, or a lack of folic acid and proteins.
- Clubbing of nails could be because of oxygen deficiency in the body, due to lung, heart or liver problems.

- Nails with pits are usually a symptom of psoriasis.
- Lines and grooves on the nails are often associated with various diseases. The vertical ridges appear due to arthritis, while horizontal ridges are a result of too much stress.

- B12 deficiency is signified by dark nails.

- Pale nails could be due to anemia or problems with the kidneys/liver.

- Red nails are often due to heart disease.

- Blue nail beds are the result of lack of oxygen in the blood, most likely due to asthma, emphysema or other lung and heart diseases.

- Grey nail beds are a symptom of diseases like arthritis, glaucoma, cardio diseases or excessive malnutrition.

- Yellow nail beds indicate liver disorders, diabetes, lymphatic diseases or chronic bronchitis.

Taking care:

It is very important to take good care of nails and not ignore or avoid any symptom, but some of the symptoms can also appear in healthy individuals. So, don't be alarmed at every slight looking change or if you happen to have some of these symptoms. "Though nails sometimes do tend to change the colour sometimes, it's better not to ignore only if the change seems permanent. Often women tend to hide any discolouration or disfiguration by painting the nails. Ignoring such signs and viewing them as only an aesthetic problem could be dangerous to your health and may only worsen the condition. The wise thing to do is to visit your doctor to rule out all causes of the abnormality," says Dr Madnani.

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