The Dermatology Practice.

Diseases of the Nail: What Your Nails Can Tell About Your Health

A change in colour, texture, or shape of your nails can be harmless, but it can also be a sign of disease. Being aware of the health of your nails could give you an early warning of a serious problem that needs your attention.

Dark stripes down the nail
Dark stripe

This is known as longitudinal melanonychia and is fairly common in people with darker skin.

If a fingernail or toenail has a new or changing dark streak, it’s time to see a dermatologist. That dark streak could be melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. Not every dark streak is a melanoma, but it’s always good to have a dermatologist examine one.


A common condition where the nail separates from the nail bed. This usually presents as a white discolouration at the tip of the nail.

The most common cause is trauma, including minor, repetitive trauma such as frequent tapping of long fingernails on a keyboard. However, fungal infections and psoriasis are also frequent causes.

Beau’s lines
Beau’s lines

These are grooves or indentations that run across the nails. They can appear when the growth at the base of the nail is interrupted by injury or a severe illness. A fever, injury, chemotherapy, or major stress can cause your nails to grow slowly or stop growing. These grooves tend to be visible a few months after these conditions happen. That is when the nails have grown and the grooves have moved up the nails to become visible.

Thin, spoon-shaped nails (Koilonychia)

This occurs whenthe fingernails are thin and dip down in the middle and look like spoons. This could be caused by iron-deficiency anaemia.

Curved nails (Clubbing)

This occurs when the tips of the fingers enlarge and the nails curve around the fingertips. As the nails curve downward, fingertips often swell and the nails start to feel spongy when pressed on.

Curved nails can be a harmless trait, which runs in the family. Curved nails can also be a result of low oxygen levels in the blood, and could point to problems with the lungs, bowels or heart

Nail colour change
Nail colour change

A change in the colour of the nails can portend adisease inside your body.

Colour Disease or other health problem
Blue nails Not enough oxygen in your bloodstream
White nails Liver disease, diabetes
Pale nails Anaemia
Half pink, half white nails Kidney disease
Yellow nailss Lung disease, nail fungal infection
Dusky red half-moons Can be caused by lupus erythematosus,
heart disease, alopecia areata, arthritis,