Summer is the perfect time to let your feet have some fun in the sun! Between sandals and being barefoot on the beach, our feet finally get a little air after months of being shoved into heavy boots and sneakers. Although polished nails for many might be considered part of your regular beauty regime, our natural nail condition may provide valuable clues to our underlying health. Medical issues typically do not always first appear in the nails, but abnormal growth or discolorations of our nails could indicate an underlying condition of which we are unaware. Here are some warning signs to look out for:
Yellow nails: Yellowing and thickening of the nails in the feet or hands can be indicative of a fungal infection. This is the most common nail condition that I see in my office. As the fungal infection progresses, the yellowing may turn darker and the composition of the nail may change. The nails can become thick and brittle which eventually leads to pressure on the nail bed, causing pain. Other, more serious conditions associated with yellowing of nails include thyroid conditions (with cracked nails), diabetes, psoriasis, or lung conditions.
Lines: These lines may be referred to as Beau’s lines which lie horizontally across the nails and can appear as tiny depressions. This is where the nail stopped growing, or growth was interrupted in certain areas. Trauma to the nail, illness, malnutrition, or chemotherapy can create these lines. Other conditions that may be associated with these lines are diabetes, high fevers, and peripheral vascular disease.
Spooning nails: These nails have raised ridges and grow thin, and scoop outward. This appears depressed in the middle (concave) like a spoon. Spoon nails appear after conditions such as iron deficiency anemia, liver problems where the body is absorbing too much iron, heart disease or hypothyroidism.
Streaking in nails: Dark streaks appearing in the nail could be a very serious sign of melanoma. I always mention melanoma because it can be so easily overlooked. (Please review my previous blog for more on melanoma of the foot). The dark streak can be indicative of skin cancer. Also, any dark pigments near the cuticle could indicate melanoma, a very serious condition where early detection is key.
These are just a few conditions in which nail changes maybe present. Any abnormalities in color, shape, or growth should be examined closely. While relaxing on the beach, take a quick look at your toenails. In between visits to the salon, take a breather, and let the nails have a break from the polish. If you see any changes, be sure to follow up with your physician for an evaluation.