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Nail abnormalities

Yellow nails
Brittle nails

Definition

Nail abnormalities are problems with the color, shape, texture, or thickness of the fingernails or toenails.

Alternative Names

Beau's lines; Fingernail abnormalities; Spoon nails; Onycholysis; Leukonychia; Koilonychia; Brittle nails

Considerations

Just like the skin, the fingernails tell a lot about your health:

Causes

Injury:

Infection:

Diseases:

Poisons:

Medicines:

Normal aging affects the growth and development of the nails.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have:

If you have splinter hemorrhages, see the provider immediately.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The provider will look at your nails and ask about your symptoms. Questions may include whether you injured your nail, if your nails are constantly exposed to moisture, or whether you are always picking at your nails.

Tests that may be ordered include x-rays, blood tests, or examination of parts of the nail or the nail matrix in the laboratory.

Prevention

To prevent nail problems:

Using the vitamin biotin in high doses and clear nail polish that contains protein can help strengthen your nails. Ask your provider about medicines that help with abnormal-appearing nails. If you have a nail infection, you may be prescribed antifungal or antibacterial drugs.

References

Tosti A, Piraccini BM. Nail disorders. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 71.

Zaiac MN, Walker A. Nail abnormalities associated with systemic pathologies. Clin Dermatol. 2013;31:627-49. PMID: 24079592 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24079592.


Review Date: 4/14/2015
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.