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How Does Health Affect Your Nails?
Written By : Caterina Christakos 
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Our nails, made of protein and keratin, are one of the features that set us humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. In a way, nails are like little badges of our intelligence. Claws are for beasts. We, on the other hand, are civilized. Few of us actually use our fingernails for anything practical-just a few musicians, really. For the rest of us, the nails are mainly good for self-beautification. When manicured and painted, we use them to add a little color to our appearance and to express our personalities. But did you know that nails can also reveal your state of health?

It's true. Look closely. Over time, nails change in appearance. You may not notice, because the changes tend to happen very gradually, but your nails do tend to look different from one year to another. And you can read things about your health in your nails' appearance. Here's how.

Inconsistent coloration or texture: When everything is going well inside of your body, your nails should look smooth, pink, and relatively evenly colored. It's normal for there to be a darker portion and a lighter portion. Any time you begin to notice that your nails are pitted, mottled, or discolored, this may be a sign that something negative is happening to your health. In fact, if the discoloration is very pronounced and severe, you'll probably want to go see a doctor, just to be on the safe side.

Itchiness: Have you been experiencing itchiness, stinginess, or persistent pain around your fingernails or toenails? This could be a sign that you have an infection of some kind. Yeast infections, bacterial infections, fungal infections, and certain types of viruses can all be signs of an untreated infection. In other cases, this symptom may simply indicate that your manicurist did something wrong.

White or dark spots: If you've ever, say, smashed your finger in a car door, you may have gotten a dark patch under your nail that stayed around for weeks or even months. Or, if you've ever scratched a nail, you may have noticed that a scratch simply doesn't go away until the nail has a chance to grow out. But if you get dark spots or light spots on or underneath your nails and you haven't had any trauma recently, this could be a sign of an underlying health problem.

Gnawed or chapped nails: As we all know, excessive nail-biting is usually a result of stress or anxiety. Thus, it stands to reason that if you notice someone has beat-up and perpetually too-short nails, there's a good chance that that person is under too much stress. Also, chapped fingertips, especially in children, could indicate a secret finger- or thumb-sucking habit.

Roughness: If your nails are frequently rough, ridged, or uneven, or if you have trouble keeping them tidy-looking, this is a sign that you might not be getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. Nails and hair thrive on proteins, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. If you get enough of these, you should be in good shape.

  More from Caterina Christakos
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