When it comes to our fingernails and toenails, all we think about is how much to clip them, which color to paint them with or which new nail art to experiment with. But, apart from all the manicures and pedicures that we get done, nails are capable of making more than just a beauty statement.
Just like how we consider our eyes to be the window to our soul, nails reveal a lot about our body’s underlying health conditions. They are the tiny diagnostic tools for our health (1).
If you’re wondering how nails are capable of telling us about our health, here’s the answer to it — the nail matrix (aka. the plot of nail growth) is easily affected by every individual’s health conditions. It will react (brittle nails being the most common manifestation) every time our body’s health takes a hit. You just need to identify the reactions.
What Are Brittle Nails?
Brittleness of the nails refers to a condition where nails easily crack, chip, split or even peel off (2). And there could be countless reasons behind this — aging, use of nail polish for too long, vulnerability to moist conditions like swimming or dishwashing, etc. But, it’s important to understand that sometimes brittle nails aren’t just something silly, it could be a sign of something serious too.
From the minor to the most serious clues that nails give with regards to your body health, take a look below!
1. Fungal Infections
Discolored (yellowish), thick, and brittle nails are probably a result of reactions with fungus. The fungal infections prominently occur in the toenails rather than the fingernails (3).
There are many ways to prevent it — keep your footwear clean and don’t walk barefoot in public areas. Also, moisturize your hands and feet, never keeping them dry. And if you find your toes affected with a fungal infection, visit a dermatologist and follow the treatment given rigorously.
2. Diseases Of The Thyroid
Your nails can also signal if you are suffering from a thyroid condition or not. And how do they signal that? The nails become very dry, brittle, and can easily split. Thyroid issues are very prevalent in women; the thyroid gland doesn’t produce sufficient hormones for the body to keep functioning smoothly, as a result of which one can observe serious fluctuations in weight, height, and body temperature (4). Make sure to consult a doctor and get a thyroid test done if you find your nails displaying the above-mentioned condition.
You don’t have to worry about the symptoms of anemia anymore. Just have a look at your fingernails and toenails! If your nails have become brittle in nature and your hands and feet have also simultaneously turned cold, then it’s a sure sign that you’re anemic in nature (5). Causes of anemia could vary from person to person. In some, it surfaces as a result of heavy menstruation, pregnancy, low levels of iron and vitamins like B12, or even kidney problems. The best way to stay safe is to follow a healthy diet that is rich in iron and vitamins. And if you want to take the easier road of eating supplements, consult your doctor first.
4. OCD And Stress
How many of us bite our nails here? We’re sure that most of us do! Whether you bite em’ as a result of a temporary moment of stress or as a result of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), you need to stop it! Because your nails don’t like them, they don’t want to get all brittle and disfigured.
Do you realize that the nails carry bacteria from the surroundings we touch? And when you’re biting your nails, you’re laying a red carpet for the bacteria to enter our body. So, if you find yourself or anyone around you suffering from a serious OCD condition or any nervous disorder, get help from a doctor immediately (6). Meanwhile, you can develop some healthy habits in order to stop yourself from biting your nails. Try chewing (low sugar) gum or use a wristband (the training one) when you feel like a bundle of nerves.