Nails are important tools. They can be used for all sorts of things, like opening cans or scratching an itch. But they can also be a huge indicator of the status of your health.
In today’s blog post, we’re going to go over 14 things you should know about your nails. So keep reading to learn more about nails and their importance!
1. Your nails are made up of a protein called keratin
Keratin is a protein that is found in our skin, hair, and nails. It’s also found in the horns of animals and is a major component of bird feathers and reptile scales.
In humans, keratin is produced by cells within the skin. As these cells die, they are replaced by new ones that contain keratin. The cells then move up to the surface of the skin, where they eventually flake off and are replaced by new ones.
Keratin is also a crucial part of your nails. Nails are made up of three parts: the nail plate, the nail bed, and the cuticle. The nail plate is the hard, protective covering that you see when you look at your nails. The nail bed is the soft tissue beneath the nail plate that helps to nourish and support it. The cuticle is the layer of skin that surrounds the base of the nail. All of these parts are held together by keratin.
Keratin plays an important role in keeping nails strong and healthy. Without it, nails would be brittle and easily broken. Keratin also helps to protect nails from damage and infection. In addition, keratin helps to keep nails moisturized and prevents them from becoming dry and cracked.
2. Your fingernails grow an average of 3.47 mm per month
Have you ever wondered why it takes so long for your nails to grow back after you’ve broken them or lost one in an accident? It turns out that there’s a good reason for this lengthy process.
The cells that produce keratin are located at the base of the nail, under the cuticle. As these cells divide and grow, they push the older cells up towards the tip of the nail. This is no small task!
The average rate of growth for fingernails is about 3 millimeters per month, which means it can take up to six months for a nail to reach its full size. So next time you’re impatiently waiting for your nails to grow back, remember that there’s a good reason for the slow process.
3. Fingernails grow twice as fast as toenails
While fingernails grow at about 3 mm per month, toenails clock in at about 1.6 mm per month.
Though the reason behind this isn’t fully known, there are some theories. Some postulate that this may have to do with the fingers receiving better blood flow, thus an increased ability to take in nutrients and use them for growth. Others believe that it may be due to the fact that fingers experience more “trauma”, triggering the body to prioritize growth in the fingernails to compensate.
As such, toenails can take a year (and sometimes more!) to grow from the base of your nail to the tip.
4. The half-moon shaped area at the base of your fingernail is called the lunula
The lunula is the small, crescent-shaped white area at the base of your fingernail. It’s actually the visible portion of your nail matrix, which is the tissue that your nail grows from.
The lunula is usually more clearly defined in people with lighter skin, but it can be seen in people of all skin tones. The size of your lunula is determined by your genes, and it’s thought to be a good indicator of your overall health. Healthy lunulas are large and well-defined, while those that are yellow or otherwise discolored may be a sign of an underlying health condition.
So, if you’re ever wondering what that little white crescent is on your nails, now you know – it’s the lunula!
5. Nails grow faster in the summer than in any other season
As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, many of us start to notice that our nails are growing faster. While this might seem like a small thing, it’s actually the result of a complex combination of factors.
For one thing, our bodies produce more keratin in the summer months. This is because keratin is created in response to damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The UV rays of the sun cause DNA damage, which triggers the production of keratin in order to protect our cells.
In addition, the higher temperatures and humidity levels cause our nails to expand, making them appear longer. The higher temperatures can also increase blood flow to the nails, boosting their access to nutrients.
Finally, we are likely to be spending more time outside in the summer, exposing our nails to sunlight. The ultraviolet light helps to stimulate nail growth. So next time you find yourself with a sudden case of ‘summer fingers’, remember that it’s just your body adjusting to the season.
6. Biting your nails can lead to all sorts of problems
Nail biting is a common habit that many people have. It may seem harmless, but there are actually several reasons why you shouldn’t bite your nails.
For one thing, it can damage your teeth. When you bite your nails, you put extra pressure on your tooth enamel, which can lead to chips and cracks.
In addition, nail biting can also cause your nails to become misshapen and weak. If you bite your nails excessively, you may even damage the tissue beneath your nails, which can be painful and difficult to heal. This can also make your nails more prone to infection.
If you’re looking for a way to break the habit, try these tips: keep your nails trimmed short so they’re less tempting to bite, paint your nails with a bitter-tasting polish to discourage nail biting, or wear gloves when you feel the urge to bite your nails. With a little effort, you can kick the nail biting habit for good.
7. Brittle nails can be a sign of iron deficiency
As mentioned above, our nails are made mostly of a protein called keratin.
This protein is strong, but it can become brittle when it’s not getting the nutrients it needs. One essential nutrient for healthy nails is iron. Iron helps to carry oxygen to our cells, and it plays a role in the production of keratin and collagen, both major components of our nails. A lack of iron can lead to anemia – a condition where a lack of oxygen is being delivered to the cells – which can cause nails to become thin, weak, and brittle.
If you suspect that you may have an iron deficiency, talk to your doctor. They can order a blood test to check your levels and determine if you need to take supplements or make changes to your diet.
Read our blog on the signs of iron deficiency by clicking here.
8. Yellow nails can be a sign of certain health conditions
Several things can cause yellow nails, ranging from simple reasons like staining from nail polish to more serious conditions like liver problems or diabetes.
One of the most common causes is an accumulation of keratin under the nails. When this protein builds up, it can give the nails a yellowish hue and cause them to become thick.
There are a few different reasons why this may happen. One is that the nails may not be getting enough moisture, which can cause them to become dry and brittle. Another is that warm, damp environments can encourage the growth of yeast and bacteria, which can break down keratin and cause it to accumulate under the nails. And certain health conditions, such as psoriasis, can also lead to an accumulation of keratin beneath the nails.
While keratin buildup is usually harmless, it can sometimes be unsightly or uncomfortable. The extra keratin can put pressure on the nail bed, leading to discomfort and even cramping. In some cases, the keratin may also cause the nails to curve inward, making it difficult to trim them properly.
Poor hygiene can also lead to yellow nails, as can smoking. Other potential causes include fungal infections, psoriasis, and jaundice. While most causes of yellow nails are harmless, if the discoloration is accompanied by other symptoms like fatigue, appetite loss, or pain in the abdomen, it could be a sign of a more serious condition and should be evaluated by a doctor.
9. If you have white spots on your nails, you could be deficient in zinc
If you’ve ever noticed white spots on your nails, you may be wondering if it’s a cause for concern. While in most cases these spots are harmless, they can sometimes be a sign of a zinc deficiency.
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a role in many bodily functions, including the development of new cells and the regulation of hormones. A zinc deficiency can therefore lead to a variety of symptoms, including hair loss, weak immunity, and delayed wound healing.
White spots on the nails are often one of the first signs of zinc deficiency, so if you notice this symptom it’s important to see your doctor for testing. With early diagnosis and treatment, a zinc deficiency can be easily resolved and your health quickly restored.
10. If your nails are curved inward, it could be a sign of psoriasis
While most people think of psoriasis as a skin condition, this chronic inflammatory disease can actually affect both the skin and nails. In fact, one of the most common nail changes seen in people with psoriasis is pitting, which is when tiny depressions form on the surface of the nails.
However, another less well-known symptom of psoriasis is curved nails. This happens when the nails become thickened and start to curve downward. While the exact cause of curved nails is unknown, it is believed that they are the result of an accumulation of debris under the nail bed. In severe cases, curved nails can become painful and make it difficult to perform everyday activities.
If you have curved nails and are also experiencing other symptoms of psoriasis, such as redness, itching, or flaking skin, it’s important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. With treatment, it is possible to manage your symptoms and prevent further damage to your nails.
11. Red and swollen nails are a sign of an infection
Nails are one way our bodies can show signs of infection. If your nails are red or swollen, it could be an indication that something is wrong.
There are various reasons why this could happen, from bacteria or fungi entering the nail bed to an underlying medical condition. If you notice any changes in your nails, it’s important to see a doctor so they can determine the cause and treat it accordingly.
In the meantime, keeping your nails clean and dry is the best way to prevent further infection.
12. Yellow nails can also be a sign of liver disease
As mentioned above, our nails can tell us a lot about our health. As such, changes in color, texture, or thickness can be a sign of certain medical conditions.
One such condition is liver disease. An early symptom of liver disease is yellowing of the nails. This is caused by the build-up of bilirubin, a yellow pigment that is produced when the liver breaks down red blood cells.
While yellow nails can also be caused by other factors, such as smoking or nail injury, if you have no other obvious explanation for your yellow nails, it’s important to see a doctor to rule out liver disease.
13. Vertical ridges running down the nails could indicate malnutrition
Vertical ridges on the nails are a common sign of malnutrition.
The body needs certain nutrients, like zinc, iron, and vitamin B12, for healthy nails. When these nutrients are lacking, the nails become weak and brittle, leading to the formation of vertical ridges. In severe cases, the nails may even become thin and start to curve inward.
If you notice any changes in your nails, be sure to talk to your doctor. With proper supplementation, most cases of malnutrition can be quickly corrected.
14. Clubbing can be a sign of lung disease
Many people are familiar with the clubbing of fingers and toes, a condition where the tips of the digits enlarge and take on a rounded shape. While clubbing is often benign, it can also be a sign of underlying lung disease.
Clubbing occurs when the tissue around the fingernails and toenails thickens and enlarges, causing the nails to curve or bulge. In people with lung disease, clubbing is thought to be caused by low levels of oxygen in the blood, which leads to changes in the structure of the nails.
While clubbing is not always indicative of serious illness, it can be a sign of advanced lung disease, so it’s important to be mindful of these types of changes in your nails.
How are your nails?
So, there you have it – 14 things you should know about your nails!
It’s good to be privy to what any changes in your nails may be telling you about your health. Keeping your eye on them can help you catch any deficiencies, infections, or even health conditions as they arise.
A B12 deficiency can cause darkening in the nails, including entirely blue nails, dark streaks, or brown or dark pigments.
However, if your nails don’t look like this, you could still be deficient in the vitamin.
Click here to see the other symptoms.