You spend so much time trimming, shaping, buffing, and painting your nails (or having someone else do all of that for you), but you probably don’t spend much time looking at them bare. And that means you may be missing spots, stripes, and odd colors that could indicate that something’s up-in a bad way-with your body.
While nothing replaces a visit to your physician for a proper diagnosis, checking your fingernails for the following abnormalities can help you spot early warning signs, so wipe off that polish and take a glance.
1. Pale Nails
The problem isn’t so black and white when it comes to white nails. If your fingernail beds are looking a little ghostly, you may have anemia, a blood disorder characterized by a low red blood cell count. “Anemia resulting from low levels of iron can lead to inadequate oxygen in the blood, which causes the skin and tissues to become pale, particularly the tissues under the nails,” says Shilpi Agarwal, M.D., a board-certified family medicine and integrative and holistic medicine physician in Los Angeles. Be sure you’re consuming good sources of iron, including green leafy vegetables, beans, and red meat, to boost your levels.
More seriously, pale nails could also be a sign of early diabetes or liver disease, both of which can lead to impaired blood flow. “When diagnosed early, diabetes can often be controlled with dietary changes,” Dr. Agarwal says. Avoid processed foods with refined sugars and carbs, and eat more fiber, vegetables, and whole grains. “These will help stabilize blood sugar levels and limit circulatory damage caused by uncontrolled sugar levels,” she says. For liver disease, a trip to the doc for testing is a must-do for accurate diagnosis.