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Fingernails: stains and discoloration can indicate illnesses
In daily practice, fingernails receive little or no attention in diagnostics. They can say a lot about our health. Discolouration or stains indicate illnesses. And crumbly or brittle nails can indicate an illness. In an interview, experts explain what to look out for and when it is necessary to see a doctor.
Stains, discoloration and scoring
Barbara Weigel from the German Association of Cosmetics and Foot Care Companies knows what a healthy fingernail should look like: "It is firm and yet flexible, has a smooth surface that is slightly curved, and is about 0.5 millimeters thick." The nail is normal matt-transparent and shines light pink due to the well-perfused nail bed. But this description does not always apply. Stains, discolouration or grooves are often visible on the nails. These changes can tell us something about health.
If you suspect a lack of nutrients for blood analysis
It is often said that nail spots are due to a lack of vitamins, iron or calcium, but this has not been scientifically proven.
If you suspect a lack of nutrients behind your nail problems, you should contact a doctor and have a blood analysis carried out. With some changes to the nails, you should definitely go to a doctor.
A contribution from Norddeutscher Rundfunk explains when this is recommended. The NDR spoke to the specialist in dermatology, Dr. Melanie Hartmann, from
DermoCosmetic Center Hamburg.
Indications of skin cancer
White spots in the nails are usually just harmless air pockets that arise when the nail grows.
Yellowish discolouration is also often harmless. They can occur through contact with cleaning agents or red nail polish, among other things.
In the case of light brown discolourations, however, a visit to the doctor is advisable, since this could be the beginning of a nail fungus that, if left untreated, destroys the entire nail and can also spread.
You also need to see a dermatologist if dark brown to black spots appear that do not grow out. It can be black skin cancer. Melanomas can act like simple skin fungus.
Completely normal signs of aging
Other problems are often troublesome, but not dangerous. For example, brittle and splintering nails can be attributed to a leached-out, porous nail plate, for example by frequent hand washing or dishwashing.
However, if the nails keep breaking or splintering for months, there may actually be a vitamin deficiency (biotin) or an underactive thyroid.
As the article goes on to say, longitudinal grooves can occasionally occur with rheumatism or liver diseases. In most cases, however, they are a completely normal sign of aging.
Cross grooves, on the other hand, often occur for a long time after severe gastrointestinal infections, flu with high fever, chemotherapy or extreme stress phases.
Scientific evidence is missing
Although numerous nutritional supplements, creams and varnishes are advertised on the market with their ingredients to ensure healthy nails, there is no scientific evidence for this.
Experts advise caution with such preparations. Overdoses, side effects and interactions cannot be excluded. For example, too much biotin (vitamin B7) could interfere with the absorption of vitamin C.
However, some creams and oils can contribute to nail health by keeping the cuticles supple. This in turn protects the nail roots from foreign bodies and germs.
Tips for beautiful and healthy nails
In this context, you should know that the cuticles - contrary to popular belief - do not grow faster if you cut them more often.
Instead of cutting it, experts say it is gentler to push back the cuticles. Ideally with a fine wooden stick.
Smaller bumps or discolorations on the nails can be carefully removed with a fine manicure file. In the NDR article there is another tip on how you can do something particularly good for your fingernails:
Before going to bed, massage a moisturizing hand cream onto the nails and cuticles and then sleep with gloves on. The next morning you have velvety hands with beautiful, shiny nails. (ad)