Although they are considered an aesthetic feature, nails are more than just a platform for color and art. Their color, shape and texture can be an indication of serious health problems including cancer! According to the AAD (American Academy of Dermatology), every kind of change on our nails indicates our overall state of health. The changes may be a symptom of heart, lung, liver and kidney disease, as well as diabetes, anemia or cancer.Our nails grow by 3.5 millimeters a month, although the exact growth rate is affected by our diet, physical trauma, the aging process or some medications. Any kind of changes on the nails such as clubbing, discoloration or loss of shape may indicate an underlying problem in the body. Here are the ten nail symptoms that are a sign of some kind of ailment:

  1. Dry, cracked and brittle nails

Although there are different factors which may make your nails dry or cracked, it can also be caused by fungal infections or thyroid disorders. Brittle nails are also caused by some nutritional deficiencies.

  1. Yellow nails

The nails may turn yellow as we age, but smoking can also leave a yellowish trace. If your nails are thickened, yellow and crumbly, it is most likely caused by a fungal infection. Sometimes, yellow nails are caused by diabetes, psoriasis, thyroid disease or some respiratory conditions such as asthma.

  1. White spots on the nails

White spots on the nails usually appear due to physical trauma. They usually disappear on their own and are no cause for concern. Sometimes, however, white spots on the nails are a sign of a fungal infection.

  1. Clubbing

Do you know what clubbing is? It’s a problem which causes the nails to curve downward, which is probably related to low oxygen levels or lung disease. Some experts associate clubbing with AIDS, liver, heart or kidney disease.

  1. Vertical ridges

This is a sign of aging and never a cause of concern. Vertical ridges are common in the elderly, but may also be caused by magnesium or vitamin B12 deficiencies as well.

  1. Horizontal ridges

According to John Anthony, M.D., horizontal ridges on the nails occur as a result of physical trauma or a serious illness. “In this case, the body is saying “I’ve got better things to do than grow nails!”, Anthony explains. These ridges are medically known as Beau’s lines and may occur as a result of psoriasis, circulatory problems, diabetes or zinc deficiency. There’s another type of streaks on the nails called Mees’ lines which are associated with Hodgkin’s disease, arsenic poisoning, leprosy, carbon monoxide poisoning and malaria.

  1. Pitting

Pitting (holes or pits on the nails) may be a symptom of alopecia areata (autoimmune disease which causes hair loss) or Reiter’s syndrome.

  1. Spoon nails

Nails that have the appearance of a spoon are most likely caused by hypothyroidism, heart disease, anemia or hemochromatosis.

  1. White nails with pink stripes

If there are pink strips on your nails, they may be caused by congestive heart failure, liver disease, diabetes or kidney failure.

  1. Dark discolorations

Black or dark growths or streaks on the nails may be a symptom of melanoma, a deadly type of skin cancer. This is why you need to check this symptom at a doctor immediately.

Biting your nails can lead to infections

As you can see, most nail symptoms are caused by physical trauma or some lifestyle factors including nail biting. This unhealthy habit can have serious consequences on your health. Some experts say that it can cause paronychia, a skin infection around the nails which can cause swelling and inflammation in the tissue. The painful condition is usually resolved surgically.

Nail bacterial infections caused by nail biting are becoming more and more common. The habit usually begins in childhood, peaks in adolescence and declines as you age, but may leave deep traces behind.

Healthy diet – healthy nails!

By eating a healthy diet, you will supply your body with essential vitamins and minerals which it requires on a daily basis. If you lack certain vitamins or minerals, your nails and health will suffer as a result. Proteins from organic eggs and meat are very important, but antioxidants found in different fruits and vegetables are important for your nails and health as well. The body requires a healthy dose of biotin as well, which is used to synthesize carbs and amino acids and to strengthen the nails and hair.Biotin is vital for the creation of keratin which the nails are made from and can be found in eggs. Omega-3 fatty acids are another important nutrient for your nails. The western diet includes too much omega-6 inflammatory acids and less omega-3 fatty acids, which can treat arthritis, heart disease, depression and diabetes. Lack of these fatty acids may cause brittle nails, which is why you should include omega-3-rich foods such as krill oil, anchovies or sardines in your diet.

Nail care tips

Although protecting your nails from within with a healthy diet is important, you need to protect them from the outside as well. When doing the dishes or similar chores, always wear cotton gloves – they will protect your nails and help them grow stronger and better. Keeping your nails trimmed with scissors or clippers is crucial as well. Leaving your nails to grow can weaken them and make them brittle.Rub some coconut oil on your nails every day to hydrate them and the cuticles and prevent harming the live tissue. Of course, if you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms, you should visit a doctor immediately who can clarify if the condition is serious.