Home / Mom's Corner / Common nail disorders
Common nail disorders

Common nail disorders

shereeBy Sheree Epstein

In various ways ones nails can be the window to what’s going on inside one’s body.

Take a good look at your fingernails…you may notice certain differences in colour, texture, bumps, white spots etc. Take a look at the grooves, curves, and ridges, how thick or thin they are and if there are any differences. Have a look at the colour of the nail bed and whether they are chipped or broken.  These imperfections may not look like much to you but it’s actually more important than you think, to maintain healthy looking fingernails.

Ultimately your nails can provide valuable indications about your overall health. You need to get to know your nails well and if you notice any changes, this can be an onset of certain health issues.

Below are a few common nail deficiencies:

  1.  Ridges:

Normal, healthy nails should have no obvious ridge lines and should be smooth to the naked eye. This can indicate certain health issues such as:

  • Inflammatory arthritis.
  • Lupus (Autoimmune disease.)
  • Iron deficiency.

Buffing the nails lightly will help to remove the ridges if they are not extremely fragile.

  1. Thick Nails:

Fairly thick nails are quite noticeable and can have several causes including:

  • Thick or separated nails can indicate thyroid disease or psoriasis.
  • Thick or rough-surfaced nails can indicate a sign of fungal infection.
  • Unusually thick nails can be a symptom of a circulation problem.
  • Can be a lung disease.

This can be due to wearing tight fitting shoes or untrimmed nails both of which prevent normal nail growth. It can also be hereditary or a sign of a local infection. If there is an infection, the nail should not be treated.


  1. Discoloured Nails:

A healthy looking nail bed should be pink in colour with a slight pinky white moon shape at the base of the nail. Streaks of any other colours can indicate health issues such as:

  • Dark stripes / bruised looking nails are associated with injury to the nail and bleeding within the nail bed.
  • Blue tinge on the nails can be a sign of poor blood circulation or a heart disorder and lack of oxygen within the blood.
  • Green nails are usually a sign of a bacterial infection or fungus.
  • White spots on the nails do not indicate any deficiency or disease.  This may be caused by injury or trauma to the base of the nail, either through banging or bending the nail.
  • Red streaks on the nail bed could be a warning of an infection with the heart.
  • Dull nails in general mean a deficiency in vitamins.


  1. Pitted/ uneven nails:

Sometimes small uneven sections on the nail bed or small dips can be as a result of a bash to the hand, but sometimes they can also be a symptom of:

  • Zinc deficiency (Forming a line across the middle of the nail bed.)
  • Psoriasis.
  • Alopecia (Hair loss.)

One should be able to notice the difference between an injury related imperfection which will not last long and a disease related imperfection which will not clear up.


  1. Dry, brittle and split nails:

Healthy nails should not require cuticle oil and moisturizers extremely often as they should maintain themselves.

Excessively dry or brittle nails can be a sign of hormonal balance problems or bacterial infections.

  • Thyroid disease can cause dry, brittle nails that crack and split very easily.
  • Fungus can also cause nails to become dry or brittle.

Both these issues can be treated and the nails will return to being normal and healthy once they have re-grown fully which can be about 6 months or so.

Often ones nails split after an injury to the nail bed but when no trauma has occurred and the nail flakes away layer by layer it can result in several issues such as:

  • Chronic malnutrition.
  • Vitamin C, folic acid or protein deficiency.
  • Psoriasis (Split nail together with a pitted nail bed.)


  1. Concave or spoon shaped nails:

These are very thin and soft nails that curve upwards, dipping in the centre of the nail bed. This is usually an indication of:

  • Heart disease.
  • Iron deficiency (Anemia.)
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Hemachromatosis (A liver disorder caused by the body absorbing too much iron.)

If medicine is taken to help treat the problem then the nails will return to a normal healthy shape in time.

  1. Clubbed nails:

This is when the skin around the nail bed can appear inflamed or puffy. This can mean:

  • Liver disease.
  • Lung disease (Breathing trouble.)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease.

The nail condition can help with diagnosis.


  1. Hangnails:

This is a split in the cuticle surrounding the nail bed.  Inadequate drying of the hands and over exposure to drying agents i.e. detergents can dry the skin and cause it to crack. Common picking of the cuticles around the whole nail bed can also cause hangnails.


Eating a well balanced diet can eliminate many of these causes. Your fingernails will not be the only signs of these diseases, but they can provide confirmation to seek further medical help. Nail irregularities and blemishes are some of the only disorders that can be treated by a beauty therapist.  If there is an infection or disorder present it is best to see a doctor immediately.