You probably don’t pay attention to your fingernails unless it’s time to switch colour or design. But you should, because they’re pretty good indicators of your wellbeing.

“Your nail colour, texture, growth and shape all represent a change in your body,” says Helen Lim, General Manager of Vedure MediBoutique.

“Changes like pitting, strips of colour, and vertical or horizontal ridges are all a cause for concern. Never ignore what your body is trying to tell you through your nails.”

“If your nails start looking different from normal, you may wish to visit a dermatologist to find out more,” she advises. While it’s best to go to the doctor for a proper diagnosis, examining your nails from time to time can give you the early warning signs you need to take that step. So be sure to give them a good look-over the next time they’re bare.

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Here’s a list of nail conditions and what they could be telling you:

  1. Pale nails
    If they’re lacking in colour, it could be a sign of anemia, liver diseases or congestive heart failure.
  2. Yellow nails
    “Yellowing nails signify aging and poor habits like smoking and overuse of nail polish. If it’s also thick and brittle, fungal infection might have set in. Other problems associated with yellow nails include thyroid, diabetes and some form of respiratory disease,” says Helen. They could also point to psoriasis.
  3. Dark lines
    Dark vertical bands beneath the nail are commonly found in people with melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
  4. Clubbing
    Enlarged fingertips and nails that curve downwards could be a result of lung disease or low oxygen levels in the blood.
  5. Dry, cracked or brittle nails
    These are usually linked to a fungal infection or thyroid disease, but can also reveal a deficiency in vitamins A, B or C.
  6. “Spoon” nails
    If your nails curve upwards, creating a scoop-like appearance, you could have an iron deficiency, heart diseases or hypothyroidism.
  7. Pitting
    A classical sign of psoriasis is numerous pits and dents on the nails.
  8. Horizontal ridges
    Otherwise known as Beau’s lines, they can mean psoriasis, diabetes, circulatory disease or severe zinc deficiency.
  9. Vertical ridges
    Although these could suggest nutrient deficiencies, they are more often than not harmless and just a side effect of ageing.

Image: Mladen Mitrinovic/
Text: Adora Wong