Nail Health Chart: Common Problems and Treatment (2023)

Have you ever looked at a chipped, brittle or black nail and wondered why it looks the way it does? Well, it turns out that nail health is closely related to how the body functions in other areas.

“For the general population, nail health is often an indicator of poor nutritional intake or poor digestion,” he explains.Dra. Sara Norris, a naturopathic physician based in Los Angeles. “Bribbling, weak, and flaky nails are the most common concerns I see in my practice, and these symptoms are more often the result of poor diet than systemic illness.”

dr. Marcos Benor, clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, agrees: "My job is to reassure people that their nail problems usually don't indicate a serious underlying condition," he explains. “The family medicine clinic is full of patients with nail findings with no consequences other than the anxiety they create.”

Healthy nails are considered smooth and free of discoloration, but if there is a problem with the texture and color of your nails, this guide can help you find a solution. In addition, we will let you know which symptoms may warrant a discussion with a healthcare professional.


Nail Health Chart: Common Problems and Treatment (1)

Rough and cracked nails that can also crack easily are one of the most common nail problems. Officially called onychoschizia, brittle nails are usually caused by repeatedly wetting and drying the nails; therefore, you should wear gloves when wetting your hands, such as when washing dishes.

In some cases, brittle nails can also be a sign ofhypothyroidismolack of iron.

The solution:You can try applying lotions that containalpha hydroxy acidsolanolinand wear gloves when washing dishes or doing other tasks that require a lot of water.

Read more about possible causes of brittle nails.

soft or weak

Nail Health Chart: Common Problems and Treatment (2)

These nails break easily or bend before breaking. Soft nails can be caused by overexposure to moisture or chemicals – think detergents, cleaning fluids, nail treatments and nail polish remover.

Weak nails can also be associated with a deficiency inB vitamins, calcium, iron or fatty acids.

The solution:Avoid having chemicals around your nails. Go natural so your nails have a chance to recover. Norris advises against iron supplements unless you know you are deficient. Instead, start taking a multivitamin that includes calcium and B vitamins.

Read more about soft or weak nails.


Nail Health Chart: Common Problems and Treatment (3)

This is likely due to external trauma to the nail itself: using the nail as a tool, pressing the nail too hard, or removing acrylic nail polish. Nails can also peel if you soak your hands in soapy water for too long.

Here's a trick to tell if it's an internal or external cause: Are your toenails peeling too? If so, it could be an internal cause such as iron deficiency. If not, it's probably external.

The solution:If you think it's internal try addingiron rich foodsto your diet. If the cause is external, keep your nails hydrated by applying lotion after any activity that might dry them out. Speak to a healthcare professional if symptoms persist, especially if you also notice peeling toenails.

Read more about nail stripping.


Nail Health Chart: Common Problems and Treatment (4)

Have you ever noticed ridges that look like little horizontal or vertical waves on your nails? Vertical ridges usually appear later in life and extend from the tip of the nail to the cuticle. As long as they are not accompanied by other symptoms, such as color changes, they are usually not a cause for concern.

Horizontal ridges, also calledbeau lines, could be a sign of kidney disease or another underlying condition.

The solution:For vertical ridges, you can gently polish the nail plate to make them smooth. For horizontal lines, consult a healthcare professional to find the underlying cause.

Read more about nail ridges.


Yellow nails are relatively common and are usually caused by one of two things: an infection or a reaction to a product you're using, like nail polish.

In rare cases, yellow can be a sign of a larger problem, including thyroid problems,soriase, odiabetes.

The solution:Your new nails should grow clean, but there are many natural treatments like tea tree oil or vitamin E to help fight infections. A multivitamin can also help with this. Talk to a healthcare professional if you don't notice an improvement after a few weeks.

Read more about yellow nails.

black lines

Also called a splinter hemorrhage, the black lines (which may look brown or dark red) look like shrapnel. They can appear multiple times. The most likely cause is trauma to the nail, such as accidentally slamming your finger into a door.

In rare cases, the lines can be a sign of an underlying problem, such as psoriasis,endocarditis, or carnationmelanoma.

The solution:The lines should disappear over time as the nail grows if they are caused by injury. But if you don't notice any changes for a few weeks, talk to a healthcare professional, especially if you notice other symptoms such as inflamed skin, night sweats or bleeding nails.

Read more about black lines on nails.

white spots

"Scattered white spots on the nails, which usually start to appear around high school, can indicate a zinc deficiency," explains Norris.

  • an allergic reaction
  • anringworm
  • nail injury

The solution:Give your nails a break from nail polish or other products and let the nail grow out. If stains persist or reappear, consult a healthcare professional.

Read more about white spots on nails.

without crescents

No crescents at the base of your nail? Most of the time, it means nothing and could be hiding under your skin.

If they seem to have disappeared, it could be a sign of:

  • malnutrition
  • depression
  • anemia

The solution:Usually, you don't need to worry about not having crescents, but you should talk to a healthcare professional if they start to turn red or disappear after being visible for a while.

Read more about half moon nails.

The businesscommon causeTreatment options
brittle nailsWet and dry frequently.Apply lotions containing alpha hydroxy acids or lanolin.
Soft or weak nailsOverexposure to moisture or chemicals.Keep nails natural and unpolished; consider taking a multivitamin that contains B vitamins and calcium.
peelingIron deficiency or injuryKeep your nails hydrated; Add iron-rich foods to your diet.
summitsAging (vertical) or underlying condition (vertical)Gently cleans nails; talk to a healthcare professional.
yellow nailsInfection or reaction to the productGive your nails time to grow (they should be transparent); apply tea tree oil or vitamin E if infected.
black linesWoundGive your nails time to grow.
white spotsInjury, infection, allergic reaction, mineral deficiencyGive your nails time to grow; avoid using nail polish; talk to a healthcare professional.
without crescentsNothing, not everyone has!Speak to a healthcare professional if you are accompanied by weight changes, dizziness, mood swings or other unexplained symptoms.

While most nail problems resolve on their own or with home treatments, some can be a sign of an underlying condition that requires treatment.

It is best to speak with a healthcare professional if nail changes are accompanied by:

  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • weakness
  • inflamed skin
  • excessive thirst
  • night sweat
  • swelling
  • heart palpitations
  • dizziness
  • depression symptoms

You should also talk to a healthcare professional if you notice horizontal lines.

"Our bodies are smart, so when we're low on vitamins and minerals, our nails and hair show it," explains Norris.

eat a variety ofWhole Foods- fruits, vegetables, whole grains - you generally get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients your nails need.

You could also take a multivitamin, but Norris advises against taking day-old pills: "It's hard for our bodies to digest large, compressed pills."

Instead, he suggests looking for a product that comes insoft gelatin capsules. Why? Capsules are usually made from gelatin. According to Norris, it's much easier for our bodies to break down gelatin to get the product's vitamins and minerals.

you can also trybiotinyPonytailsupplements If you go the biotin route, Norris recommends discontinuing use 2 weeks before any lab work, as it can interfere with results.

If your nails are acting on their own without any additional symptoms, it's usually not a cause for concern. But if you notice other unexplained symptoms, consider talking to a healthcare professional about possible causes. Most underlying causes of nail problems are easy to treat once identified.

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