• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Changes in nail color could signal serious health problems

June 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's been said that the eyes are a window to the soul, but could the same hold true for our nails? Dermatologists say changes in nail color and texture could indicate a serious health problem.

Alex Hewett, 42, is a mother of two boys, an actress and an impeccable dresser.

"I just think that you've been given this vessel - your body - you need to take care of it. And polishing your nails is just like having your shoes polished," said Hewett.

She gets manicures and pedicures twice a month. In between, she often does her nails herself and doesn't always like what she sees.

"When I take off my nail polish, I tend to have yellowish discoloration," she said.

Nails can provide valuable information about a person's health. Yellowish nails can sometimes signal lung problems and half white-half pink nails could be a sign of kidney disease. Red nail beds could signal heart disease and pale or white nail beds could mean anemia.

"You normally don't have color in your nails but you start noticing some abnormal color on your nail or underneath of it, it can be a sign of something more serious like cancer," said Dr. Oanh Lauring, a dermatologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD.

While dark, long, uniform bands are common among people with darker complexions, when melanoma is present it often shows up as a pigment change at the cuticle. If your nails separate from the nail bed it could indicate the skin condition psoriasis.

"My fingernails were brittle. No matter what I would do, they would look terrible," said Karan Powell.

Her dry nails and broken cuticles didn't get better until she got treated for an adrenal gland disorder.

"By taking the calcium and various vitamins my nails are super strong," Powell said.

And for the first time in years, she says she feels good too.

To keep your nails their healthiest, keep them clean and dry, and avoid nail biting or picking at the cuticles. Moisturize the cuticles and nails daily and never pull off hangnails, it's best to trim them with clippers.

Load Comments