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When to See a Dermatologist About Nail Issues

Dec 22, 2020

Your nails offer a glimpse into your overall health. If they experience a sudden change in color, texture, or shape, you should ask a dermatologist for advice. The difference might be harmless—or it could signify an underlying problem that requires treatment.

  • Dark streak under the nail: Does one fingernail or toenail have a dark streak? It could be melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. If ignored, treatment could become more difficult.
  • Nail lifting up: If the white of your nail extends down further than usual, this means the nail is lifting from the nail bed. Fungal infection or psoriasis could be to blame.
  • Redness and swelling: Skin infections around your fingernail or toenail can be painful. When treated early, antibiotics can often clear up the infection quickly.
  • Greenish-black nail: Bacterial infections often cause this discoloration. Without treatment, it tends to get worse.
  • Pitted nails: Dents that look like they were made with an ice pick could be a sign of psoriasis, eczema, or alopecia areata.
  • Yellow nails: Have your nails yellowed, thickened, and appear to have stopped growing? This is a sign of lung disease or rheumatoid arthritis. You may also have a nail infection, which requires treatment.
  • Deep groove in the nails: Small grooves running the length of your nail are of no concern. However, if you have a deep groove spanning the width, this means the nail recently slowed or stopped growing for a while. A fever, injury, chemotherapy, or significant stress can cause this. If you can’t think of a reason why your nails stopped growing, see your dermatologist.
  • Thick, overgrown nails: Known as Ram’s horn nails, this thick overgrowth can occur because of a disease like psoriasis, ichthyosis, or poor circulation. Cutting and treating the nail requires help from a dermatologist.
  • Thin, concave nails: Fingernails that dip in the middle signify an iron deficiency. This can occur because of poor diet, digestive problems, celiac disease, or living at high altitudes.
  • Parallel grooves in the nail: “Washboard” nails are often the result of picking at or pushing back your cuticles. Work with a dermatologist to help you break this habit so your nails can grow more healthily.
  • Spongy, curved nails and swollen fingertips: If you notice these symptoms, a severe health problem could be affecting one or more of your organs, including your heart, lungs, liver, stomach, or intestines.
  • Color changes: Various diseases can cause your fingernails to develop unusual coloring. For instance, pale nails signify anemia; half pink, half white nails could mean kidney disease; and blue half-moons could be a sign of poisoning.

Seeing changes to your nails isn’t always a concern, but speaking with a dermatologist can ease your mind. At Arlington Dermatology, we specialize in diagnosing and treating numerous skin, hair, and nail conditions. Call us today at 847-392-5440 or set an appointment online to have your nails examined by an expert today.