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Fingernails and Vitamin Deficiencies

by
author image Kathleen Northridge
Kathleen Northridge has been a professional, freelance, S.P.J.A award-winning writer since 1985. She has written for organizations as diverse as the American Cancer Society and Sign Business Magazine. She also has a background in research and education. She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.
Fingernails and Vitamin Deficiencies
Painting nails may make it harder to detect problems. Photo Credit filing fingernails image by Brett Mulcahy from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

The doctor will take the patient’s hands, but it’s not for comfort. The doctor is looking carefully, mostly at the fingernails, which can reveal a number of medical conditions, such as problems with the liver and kidneys. Fingernails can even indicate deficiencies in the diet. Color, texture and shape are all considered. While not a substitute for blood work or imaging, critically viewing the nails can expedite a medical diagnosis or be a good indicator of a deficient diet.

Healthy Nails

A healthy fingernail should be clear, smooth and pliable. It should have white moons at the base, and the nail that grows beyond the finger should be creamy white. The skin under the nail should be a rosy version of your basic skin tone. Any change in the appearance of the nails could indicate deficiency or disease.

Check Your Nails For Health

Check your nails weekly to be sure they look healthy. Any abnormality could be significant. Look for texture and color. The shape of the nails could indicate a problem as well. Squared nails might be caused by hormone problems. General malnourishment can cause “dents” in the nails, called “Beau’s lines.” Vitamin C deficiency is sometimes linked with red-brown spots and pits at the end of nails. In more mild forms, a lack of vitamin C is thought to cause more hang nails and swelling near the nail. Yellowed nails indicate that the nail growth is slower than normal, which is associated with a number of health problems, such as diabetes, but it's also related to deficiencies in iron and zinc. Zinc deficiency may also show up as white spots on the nails. Severe iron deficiency can cause flattened nails that have depressions, called koilonychias. Iron deficiency can cause a lack of energy.

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B12 to Blame

Blue fingers always indicate a lack of oxygen. If this is a temporary condition, it could indicate the person is in distress. If chronic, then likely there is a lung or blood problem. The dietary concern would be too little iron or B12. B12 deficiency shows up in several ways on the fingernail. It can manifest in a reduction in the visibility of the lunula, the “moon.” Ridges can also be a sign of B12 deficiency. If the deficiency continues, then tingling in the fingers, plus balance problems, memory problems and depression can result.

Meds

Medicines can cause nail problems, too. Many people are starting to take silver for various conditions. Too much silver can actually cause your nails to turn blue. Taking NSAIDs for inflammation can cause nails to become weak. Other medications have side effects that show up in the nails, too.

Eating Right for Healthy Nails

Fingernails are sensitive to poor diets. Eating junk and ignoring the food pyramid is likely to cause deficiencies. A healthy diet requires a balance of fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy and meat. Eliminating one category of these can be healthy if the nutrients are carefully replaced with the remaining food groups. During times of stress the body may burn up certain vitamins (such as B vitamins) more than others, so nutritional supplements might be a good source for those nutrients. Healthy nails require plenty of calcium and zinc, which are especially important for pregnant women. Pregnancy is a time when a woman should be especially mindful of her diet. Checking the fingernails weekly is a good habit to form.

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