Why Do My Nails Look Like This?

An expert tells us what some common nail changes may indicate.

Your eyes may be the windows to your soul, but your nails can be a window to your overall health. “Changes in the appearance of nails can be a sign of disease,” says Jennifer Goldwasser, MD, of Scarsdale Medical Group. “Although most changes are benign, medical evaluation is prudent.” Here, Dr. Goldwasser tells us what some common nail changes may indicate.   

Yellowing Nails “can be a sign of internal disease, such as lung disease, or a manifestation of psoriasis or nail fungus — though fungus generally affects the toenails.”

Pitted Nails “Tiny pits can be associated with psoriasis, especially when there is psoriatic joint disease. We may also see pitting in the nails with a hair-loss condition called alopecia areata.”

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Inflamed Nail Fold “Most often, this will happen from a minor yeast infection in the skin. Bacterial infections can also produce this. Rarely, dilated blood vessels in this bit of skin may emerge as a symptom of autoimmune diseases, such as lupus erythematosus.”

Ridges “Longitudinal ridges are age-associated. Transverse or horizontal ridges are usually the result of minor trauma to the nail matrix. Even an aggressive manicure might produce that change.”

Clubbing “is a sign of serious lung disease, and is typically seen in people with COPD, such as emphysema.’

Streaks or Discolorations “Brown streaks in multiple nails are usually a benign condition called melanonychia striata, but a single dark streak, especially if it is changing over time, can indicate melanoma and should be evaluated promptly by a dermatologist. Greenish-brown discoloration under a nail is a sign of a minor bacterial infection caused by pseudomonas.”

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