By Loa Blasucci
7:08 PM EDT, August 17, 2011
Your body sends out ongoing signals that tell the world about your health: Your posture, the look on your face, the clarity of your eyes, your energy level and your mood are just a few.
But your finger and toe nails also have quite a lot to say about you.
For example, with the growth rate of approximately 0.1 mm every day — that’s about 1 cm (0.4 inches) every 100 days — your grooming skills are immediately visible, especially now, since nails grow faster in the summer. They also grow faster on your right hand if you're right-handed person; or they grow faster on your left hand if you're a “lefty.”
Men’s nails grow faster than women’s nails, and kids grow faster than adults, so get the clippers out accordingly.
Let’s get to the important, on-display health information about you.
Look down at your hands, here’s what you’ve got: nail plates, the part you see, or what you call your nails; nail beds, or the skin beneath the nail plates; cuticles, or the tissue that curves around the base of the nail and overlaps slightly; nail folds, or the skin that supports and frames the nail on three sides; the lunula, the whitish half-moon shape at the base of your nails, and the matrix, the hidden part of the nail unit, under the cuticle.
As new cells grow in the matrix, the old cells are pushed out, forming what you see as your nail. Your nails are composed mostly of keratin, a hardened protein also found in skin and hair. Since shapes and textures can be genetic, your hands may resemble your mother’s or other family member’s hands.
The color and texture of your nails can be a warning sign to underlying medical conditions because your fingernails are produced by living skin cells in your fingers. So just like your skin, they can tell us how you’re doing.
A major illness will cause a deep horizontal groove to form in the nail plate. White or pale nails may indicate liver disease or anemia. Red cuticles may indicate lupus while thick, yellow, slow growing nails may indicate lung problems or emphysema.
Redness under the nail sometimes accompanies heart disease, and brownish nails may indicate kidney problems. Yellow or green discoloration may result from a respiratory condition, such as chronic bronchitis, and extremely brittle or split nails may indicate an under-active thyroid.
Paramedics often use fingernail beds as an indicator of tissue perfusion when checking an individual who may be in shock. They gently press and release the fingernail bed, which briefly turns the nail white. If it does not return to a pink color within 1 or 2 seconds, shock may be indicated.
Wearing nail polish puts a lacquer seal over the nail plate, so it’s a good idea to let your fingers and toes go “au naturelle” whenever possible. This allows the nail plate and surrounding area to breathe and form its protective layers without being smothered by polish or stripped by removers that contain acetone.
Living under your nails is a cornucopia of fungi and disease-causing bacteria, which is why you’ll want to keep your fingers and nails out of your mouth, and your nail file to yourself. They can spread fungus, so think of your nail file as a personal item, like a toothbrush.
Cotton-lined rubber gloves will protect your hands and nails when using harsh chemicals or hot water, even if it’s only for a few minutes. And a little botanical moisturizer or olive oil massaged into nails and hands will revive dry or stressed nails.
So check them often, trim them carefully, and keep them clean. Pretty simple, I think we can all nail this one down.
Check my website gotoloa.com for more information and to see my new “Tip of The Week” video.
LOA BLASUCCI lives in La Cañada and teaches courses at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge. Her website is www.gotoloa.com.