What Are Your Toenails Revealing About Your Health?

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Your toenails may seem like an insignificant part of your body, performing minor duties that we don’t give much thought to. However, your nails reveal a lot about the state of your health. Changes in toenail color, texture and shape can clue you in on underlying medical conditions, even before they have been properly diagnosed.

According to American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), “Nails often reflect our general state of health. Changes in the nail, such as discoloration or thickening, can signal health problems including liver and kidney diseases, heart and lung conditions, anemia, and diabetes.”

Some nail symptoms are harmless, though. This article focuses on what your toenails may be telling you about the overall condition of your health.

Yellow Toenails

There are many possible reasons toenails may be yellow. As you age, your nails may start to take on a yellowish tint. Yellow nails may also result from frequent use of acrylic nails or nail polish. A thick, crumbly and yellow nail is a symptom of fungal infection. In more serious cases, yellow nails can be an indication of chronic bronchitis, diabetes, psoriasis or thyroid disease.

Nail Clubbing

Nail clubbing describes a situation in which nail appears to enlarge and curve downward. Hippocrates first associated this condition with disease, and it has since been connected to diseases of the lung, kidney, liver, and/or heart.

White Spotted Nails

If your nails have white spots, you don’t have to be alarmed. It is usually an indication of nail trauma. The white spots will normally fade away or grow out. A persistent white spot could be as a result of fungal infection, especially if it spreads slowly or shows signs of thickening.

Cracked or Brittle nails

It is not uncommon for some individuals to have dry, cracked or brittle nails. It’s often a reflection of the lifestyle of such individuals. Lifestyle or work situations that are commonly associated with this condition include swimming, dishwashing, and/or constantly exposure to harsh chemicals. There are instances where cracked and brittle nails are a sign of vitamin deficiency (vitamins A and C), or of hypothyroidisms.

Horizontal Ridges

This is as a result of direct trauma to the nails or a serious illness that is accompanied by high fever. In case of serious illness, the horizontal ridges will appear in more than one nail at the same time.

Also known as Beau’s line, horizontal ridges could result from uncontrolled diabetes, psoriasis and severe zinc deficiency. Other types of horizontal lines (Mees’lines) are horizontal discoloration as a result of arsenic poison, malaria, leprosy or poison from carbon monoxide.

Dark Discoloration

This may be as a result of damage to blood vessels under the nails as a result of an injury. However if you black streaks or painful growth on the nails, you may want to consult your physician immediately. The black streaks may be due to a deadly cancer of the skin.


Onycholysis is the separation of the nail from the nail bed or skin base; this could be as a result of injury to your toe. If there is no visible cause, it could be as a result of the overactive thyroid gland. Your physician may check your blood for hormones for confirmation.

As with all medical conditions, it is proper to consult with professionals, carry out tests before coming to a conclusion on any nail symptom that you might have observed. The symptoms may be nothing other than a reflection of your lifestyle. A change in lifestyle or diet may be enough to reverse some of the symptoms. If in doubt, consult your podiatrist.

Concerned about your toenail symptoms? Contact Houston Foot and Ankle Care at (713) 541-3199 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Maislos, DPM, FACFAS.

Call (713) 541-3199 if you experience:
• discoloration of the nail
• thickening or crumbling nail texture
• nail pain or extreme sensitivity


Houston Foot and Ankle