Alternate Names : Beau's lines, Fingernail abnormalities, Spoon nails, Onycholysis, Leukonychia, Koilonychia, Brittle nails
Nail abnormalities are problems with the color, shape, texture, or thickness of the fingernails or toenails.
Overview & Considerations
Just like the skin, the fingernails tell a lot about your health.
- Beau's lines are depressions across the fingernail. These lines can occur after illness, injury to the nail, and when you are malnourished.
- Brittle nails are often a normal result of aging. However, they also may be due to certain diseases and conditions.
- Koilonychia is an abnormal shape of the fingernail. The nail has raised ridges and is thin and curved inward. This disorder is associated with iron deficiency anemia.
- Leukonychia is white streaks or spots on the nails.
- Pitting is the presence of small depressions on the nail surface. Sometimes the nail is also crumbling. The nail can become loose and sometimes falls off.
- Ridges are tiny, raised lines that develop across or up and down the nail.
- Crushing the base of the nail or the nail bed may cause a permanent deformity.
- Chronic picking or rubbing of the skin behind the nail can cause a washboard nail.
- Long-term exposure to moisture or nail polish can cause nails to peel and become brittle.
- Fungus or yeast cause changes in the color, texture, and shape of the nails.
- Bacterial infection may cause a change in nail color or painful areas of infection under the nail or in the surrounding skin. Severe infections may cause nail loss.
- Viral warts may cause a change in the shape of the nail or ingrown skin under the nail.
- Certain infections (especially of the heart valve) may cause red streaks in the nail bed ( splinter hemorrhages).
- Disorders that affect the amount of oxygen in the blood (such as abnormal heart anatomy and lung diseases including cancer or infection) may cause clubbing.
- Kidney disease can cause a build-up of nitrogen waste products in the blood, which can damage nails.
- Liver disease can damage nails.
- Thyroid diseases such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism may cause brittle nails or splitting of the nail bed from the nail plate (onycholysis).
- Severe illness or surgery may cause horizontal depressions in the nails (Beau's lines).
- Psoriasis may cause pitting, splitting of the nail plate from the nail bed, and chronic destruction of the nail plate (nail dystrophy).
- Other conditions that can affect the appearance of the nails include systemic amyloidosis, malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, and lichen planus.
- Arsenic poisoning may cause white lines and horizontal ridges.
- Silver intake can cause a blue nail.
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Review Date : 4/17/2009
Reviewed By : Michael Lehrer, MD, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.