What Fingernail Health Reveals About Your Body

Changes to the shape, color, and texture of your nails could be a sign of something serious.

You could have a circulatory problem

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Some people have round nail beds genetically. But suddenly swollen skin near the cuticles with nails that are bulbous—meaning the nail is shaped like an upside-down spoon—is a surefire reason to have your hands and feet checked out. Nail clubbing is often sign of a more serious disease related to the heart and lungs, such as emphysema, lung cancer, congenital heart disease, or cirrhosis. Follow these six tricks for how to stop biting nails!

You could have melanoma

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“Pigmented bands in the nail are common and usually normal especially in people with darker complexions,” says Dana Stern, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. However, she notes that dark bands or stripes could also be a sign of cancer. Most people think melanoma starts in the skin, but it can also begin under the nail, specifically in the thumb, index finger and big toe nail. Keep an eye out for a single brown or black band and if there is a brownish pigment to the skin surrounding the nail. It’s hard to determine if a dark band is benign or something more serious, so head to a dermatologist for an evaluation if you notice something new. These are the everyday habits you didn’t realize were ruining your nails.

You could be anemic

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When your nail bed is concave—imagine a droplet of water resting on the nail plate without rolling off—you have a condition known as koilonychia, or “spoon-shaped nails.” The condition is usually caused by an iron deficiency. If you notice your nails are concave, ask your doctor to run blood work to check for anemia, notes Dr. Stern. Learn some other secrets your hands can reveal about your health.

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