Nails are fundamental parts of the body. They form basic parts of our general look, especially for women. Besides their contribution to our overall look, nails protect the soft tissues of the nail bed. Both fingernails and toenails are located in obvious positions yet we often miss the details about these body parts.

Besides trimming the nail, we usually do not pay close attention to other details of the nail such as the color, texture, and shape. This wouldn’t have been an issue except for the fact that nails can tell us a lot about our general health status. Color changes, ridges, and texture are all some of the indications of an underlying health issue. It could be used to diagnose dehydration, shock, kidney problem, liver diseases, etc. Before we will be able to suggest a probable condition through the appearance of the nail, it is imperative that we know what a healthy nail look like. We think we do, but we often miss the details.

What a healthy nail looks like

Nails are composed of a tough protein called keratin. It is also the key structural material in the outer layer of the skin as well as the hair. A healthy toenail or fingernail will generally be pink in color. On the nail bed, a healthy nail plate is pink in color and it turns white as it grows off the nail bed.

Signs of a normal nail

  •         Attached to the skin
  •         Uniform coloration
  •         Smooth – no pits or grooves
  •         White lunula, often called the little moon, just above the cuticle

Signs of abnormal nails

  •         Detachment from the skin
  •         Thickening or thinning of the nail
  •         Discoloration
  •         Spots
  •         Awkward shape

Nail color changes tied to health conditions


This is one of the most common nail discolorations. It could be whitening of the whole nail plate, a part under the nail or white spots on the nail.

  •         White spots on the nail

Iron or zinc deficiency is considered as the prominent cause of white spots on nails. It can also be caused by an injury to the nail bed.

Some of the internal problems that could result in white spots on the nail are arthritis and poisoning.

  •         White fingernails

I have seen this a number of times and is often caused by underlying issues such as liver or kidney disorder or anemia. White-lined bands across the nail beds could be as a result of protein deficiency. It could also signal a condition called Terry’s nail or cirrhosis of the liver when it has a rim of darker color at the tip of the nail.

  •         White areas under the nail

If the white discoloration affects half of the nail and has dark spots on the tip, this could point to kidney disease. White spots beneath the tip of the nail could be a result of nail fungus which could be an external issue or also indicative of deep-lying issues.

Black nails

Black fingernails can be caused by any of the following underlying health issues: anemia, liver disease, trauma, chronic kidney disease, B-12 deficiency, silver deposits, adrenal gland problems, bacterial infection, etc.

Blue nails

Blue discoloration of the nail, which is called azure lunula or cyanosis, could be as a result of underlying health issues such as lung and breathing problems, septicemia, Argyria, Raynaud’s disease, as well as a high level of an abnormal form of hemoglobin in the circulation.

Yellow nails

Lymphatic problems, respiratory disorders, diabetes, liver problems, and nicotine are some of the underlying health issues that could cause yellow discoloration of the nail.

Brown spots under the nail

A skin or joint disorder known as psoriasis could cause pitted brown spots on the nail while reddish-brown spots can be as a result of the deficiency of protein, folic acid, or vitamin C.

Red fingernails

Red discoloration of the nail could be as a result of lung disease, heart disease, stroke, possible brain hemorrhage, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Purple nails

Congenital issues, circulatory problems, and oxygen deprivation are some of the underlying health issues causing purple nails

Other common nail discolorations that could indicate underlying health issues include green nails, grey nails, as well as blackening.


Different nail discolorations could be indicative of varying health issues; hence it is important to pay attention to the state of your nail. Usually, nail discoloration is not the first symptom presented by these health issues which makes it easier to add the symptoms up hence diagnosing the possible problem.