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What Your Body Is Trying To Tell You Part 1: Fingernail Health

Preppers need a basic understanding of how to spot chronic conditions. There is often nothing more telling, than observing our fingernails.

Imagine if you didn’t have access to the internet. What if you didn’t even have any medical or nutrition books to help guide you? And what if there wasn’t a doctor of any kind, for miles around? To compound these issues further, what if this hypothetical situation you’re in lasted for several years?

This is a major dilemma for Preppers, because we would no doubt face medical emergencies from time to time, especially from those conditions that are chronic in nature. It could be from a lack of nutrition, radiation, or chemicals slowly leaching into our environment from our eroding infrastructure. In any long term survival scenario, Preppers need a basic understanding of how to spot chronic conditions. There is often nothing more telling, than observing our fingernails.

Listed below are a number of fingernail ailments that could be signs of a more serious condition. Or it could nothing at all. Having something weird on your fingers isn’t a guarantee that there’s a problem. Treat it like a “lead” in the investigation of your body. After that If you still think there’s a problem, seek medical advice from a professional, at least while you still can.


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The color of your nail is one of the most recognizable indicators of your wider health. If you have slow growing yellow nails (not the kind of yellowing you get from holding a cigarette) it could be signs of a respiratory illness, jaundice, or perhaps from a heat related injury. Other possibilities include fungal infection, thyroid disease, diabetes, psoriasis, amyloidosis, or even injury to the medial nerve that runs throughout the arm (most commonly caused by carpal tunnel).

Nails that are pale in color, are often a sign of anemia, malnutrition, or liver disease. They can often show up after chemotherapy, renal failure, or cirrhosis. Nails that are gray or show little color, could indicate a variety of conditions including, diabetes, breast cancer, b12 deficiency, lichen planus, syphilis, or could simply be the result of chemical exposure to nail polish, varnish, hair dyes etc. While nails that are nearly blue in color, are usually a sign that you’re not getting enough oxygen circulating in your body. This could be caused by a lung or heart problem. And if the skin around the nail is puffy and red, it could indicate a connective tissue disorder.

Sometimes it’s simply a sign of aging, but Terry’s nails are often a sign of liver disease, diabetes, or heart failure. The condition might not be that easy to recognize. It’s simply a dark band of color just before the tip of the nail. Another condition that is usually just a part of aging, is known as Onychorrhexis. This usually creates long vertical ridges across the nail that are very visible. Other than simple aging, they can be caused by arthritis, iron deficiency, protein deficiency, folic acid deficiency, or the genetic condition known as Darier’s disease, in which these ridges are red and white.


Misshapen nails can be caused by a wide variety of conditions. For instance, a club nail is when the nail becomes soft and grows into a tall curve over the fingertip, that often thickens at the end of the finger. It’s almost always caused by pulmonary or cardiovascular issues, but other possibilities include inflamed bowels, liver disease, or a lung condition.

Then there are spoon nails, which in their worst state, are pretty easy to spot. The edges of the nail curve upward while the interior of the nail flattens, much like a spoon. In its earliest state though, it usually only appears to be a flat fingernail, and is most often seen in children. It often indicates an iron deficiency, or possibly anemia. Other causes include diabetes, protein deficiency, Raynaud’s disease, lupus, or even an overexposure to petroleum based solvents.

If you notice pitting on the nail, it’s probably related to psoriasis or eczema (which, if you have it, you’re probably already aware of it) or it could be related to the arthritic disease Reiters Syndrome or the hair loss condition known as alpoecia areata. As a matter of fact, my research found Psoriasis to be the most common cause of nail conditions. It’s strange that it can cause such a wide variety of fingernail ailments (Thyroid and circulatory problems seem to also cause multiple nail abnormalities, and you’ll see these causes show up multiple times in this list). Sometimes psoriasis reveals itself by simply creating a rough or coarse surface of the nail, but this same condition can also be caused by lichen planus or chemical exposure.

Ridges and Cracks

Beau lines are in my opinion, the perfect example of how much you’re fingernails reveal about you’re health. Though they’re usually nothing to worry about, they often show up after a major surgery, illness, or injury. When you go through a period of great physical trauma, so many nutrients are going towards the site of the problem, that other less important body parts may not get what they need. This can often result in a deep horizontal groove across your fingernail. It’s kind of like how you can look at tree rings and tell how bad the climate was at any given year. You can actually measure how long ago the trauma was, depending on how far the groove has moved forward with the growth of the nail.

So it’s not surprising that malnutrition can contribute to other conditions as well. Nails that crack or split easily are usually caused by an insufficient diet (but can also be signs of thyroid disease, metabolic bone disease, and amyloidosis). If you find a deep vertical line running down a nail it could be a sign of poor nutrition, or arterial disease.

Thyroid problems and psoriasis can often cause the nail to slowly separate from the finger, in a condition known as onycholysis. It’s also known to be present in thyrotoxicosis, psoriasis, eczema, blistering from sunburn, or autoimmune disorders. Otherwise the condition is usually not an indication of a wider problem. It’s often caused by injury to the finger, nail adhesives, or local infection.

Finally, if you notice dark, almost black vertical lines underneath the nail, you should probably start to worry. It’s likely caused by melanoma or breast cancer. Though, if you hit your finger with a hammer, it can cause a very similar appearance, so in that case don’t freak out.

Over all, it seems like there’s a few broad conditions that show up in your fingernails more than others. Mainly autoimmune disorders, thyroid problems, poor nutrition, and chemical exposure. Keeping that in mind, if you’re in a long term survival situation, and the signs of poor health begin to show up in your fingernails, you should be able to narrow down the cause fairly easily. For a more in depth examination of your fingernail health, check out the sources below.



This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on May 31st, 2014

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