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Fingernail Problems and What They Tell Us

Changes in the appearance, growth, and strength of a person’s fingernails can sometimes tell us a great deal about their overall health. If you spot a change or markedly different appearance in the nails of your elderly loved one, it could clue you in on a serious medical condition. Read on to find out what health conditions different nail appearances could point to.

Nail separation, known as onycholysis, occurs when a finger or toe nail lifts away from the soft, pink nail bed. While the condition is usually painless, the affected nails may catch on things and bend back, which can cause pain. The affected nails must be trimmed carefully to prevent this. Once the underlying cause is treated, the problem typically resolves itself as the old nail grows out and is replaced by the new nail.

Yellowed nails can occur for many reasons, and while some are serious, many are benign due to lifestyle choices, like smoking or overapplication of nail polish. Discolored, thickened, yellowish nails could be indicative of jaundice, or a fungal infection of the nails.

Spoon nails, or koilonychia, occurs when the nails become thin and brittle, losing their natural convex structure and bending upwards, in a spoon shape. The depression in the nail is usually able to hold a drop of liquid. This could be a sign of iron deficiency or lupus.

Nail clubbing occurs when the soft tissue under the nails increases, giving the nails a swollen, rounded appearance. They can become so exaggerated they curve around the fingertips. This can indicate many different serious problems, such as lung disease, liver disease, heart disease, or any number of serious conditions.