Which Nail Shapes are a Sign of Nail Abnormalities?

Close up of a woman's feet Which Nail Shapes are a Sign of Nail Abnormalities?

There are many skin conditions that affect more than your skin. Your nails’ shape, color, and texture are all things you should be paying attention to in relation to your skin’s health.

Nail Shapes and What they Mean

Fingernails and toenails consist of many layers of the protein keratin. Keratin is an essential substance that also is contained within the hair and skin. Healthy nails are smooth and free of deformation, so it’s usually pretty easy to spot nail abnormalities. Figuring out what these abnormalities are trying to tell us is a little trickier. With a basic understanding of how our nails are impacted by internal and external factors you should have a better idea of what’s going on. And no matter what’s going on with your nails and skin, you should consult a dermatologist with any concerns.

  • Pitting

Pitting refers to a condition in which the nail develops many different, crater-like depressions on its surface. These indentations, or pits are a fairly common symptom of a few different health conditions. Psoriasis is something you’re going to see cropping up on this list pretty often. Psoriasis is a skin condition that very often impacts nails, and it’s not just limited to pitting. Pitting doesn’t often cause discomfort on its own, but with a lot of these abnormalities, pitting is often accompanied by other nail problems.

Pitting can also be caused by alopecia, or hair loss. Since alopecia is most likely caused by the body’s immune system attacking hair follicles, keratin in the nails can be affected. Eczema, or dermatitis, can also contribute to nail pitting. Essentially, any skin condition that causes inflammation of the skin has the potential for causing symptoms in the nails. In some cases, pitting and other nail abnormalities might be the only symptoms of psoriasis or alopecia, though that is very uncommon.

  • Lifting

Lifting is fairly straightforward, and refers to a scenario in which the nail becomes detached from the nailbed and begins to lift away from it. Also referred to as onycholysis or nail separation, nail lifting is a symptom of a few different conditions. Unsurprisingly, psoriasis can contribute to lifting. Since psoriasis impacts skin, and there is skin beneath your nails, it’s no wonder that it can contribute to lifting. In many cases, with lifting you will see changes to the color of your nails, and they will become more opaque. Commonly, the nail will turn whitish, sometimes yellowing or even developing a greenish hue.

Fungal and bacterial infections can also cause lifting of the nails. Conditions like athlete’s foot, while primarily impacting the feet, can also get under your toenails. If this occurs, lifting is likely. If you injure your nail superficially, keep a close eye out for infection of any kind. If you injure your nail, make sure to clean the wound with antibacterial soap, apply topical, skin safe disinfectants and change bandages regularly.

  • Spooning

Spooning is another fairly obvious name for a nail deformity. With spooning, a finger or toenail will have a depression in the center. In other words, the edges and ends of the nail become higher than the center. Spooning is often the cause of a more serious, underlying health condition like anemia or heart disease, but it also can be the result of psoriasis.

Beyond Shape: Other Nail Abnormalities

Your nail’s shape isn’t the only indicator of a skin condition. Sometimes your nails may discolor or develop streaks of discoloration. Depending on the color of the discoloration, it could be any number of conditions. Black spots or streaks in the nail might be a sign of trauma caused by any of the conditions outlined above, besides alopecia. But these black spots may also be something far more serious: melanoma, a dangerous and fast-spreading form of skin cancer.

The bottom line is simple: if your nails change from their healthy state, your body is trying to tell you something is not quite right. If you notice a change to your nail’s health, please don’t hesitate to call the dermatologists at Northeast Dermatology Associates today.

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