Nail abnormalities indicate various diseases that may be very serious sometimes.  In case, you notice that your nails are abnormal, like, if there is a difference in the shape, colour, thickness or texture, be sure to see you doctor immediately and address the cause.

Brittle nails

When nails are exposed to water, chemicals or nail polish over a long period of time, they tend to become brittle.  Biotin supplements, i.e., Vitamin B12 can be taken to strengthen these nails. Applying moisturisers or wearing gloves while working with water may also help.

Apart from this, brittle nails can also be due to the following:

  1. Abnormal NailsFungal infection that can be cured with antifungal tablets
  2. Nail psoriasis, a nail disease that causes pitting, discolouration and crumbling of nails
  3. Lichen planus, a skin rash that may also affect the nails.
  4. Reactive arthritis, a rare condition in which muscles, joints and other body parts are affected by some kind of unusual reaction that also cause the nails to become brittle.

Nail discolouration

Yellow nails are commonly caused by nail psoriasis or nail fungus. However, yellow nails may arise from the following conditions:

  1. Regular usage of nail polish
  2. Lymphoedema, a disorder that causes skin to swell
  3. Bronchiectasis, damage of the lungs
  4. Sinusitis, an inflammation of sinuses
  5. Tuberculosis, bacterial infection in the lungs
  6. Jaundice, yellowish pigmentation of skin
  7. Drugs like mepacrine/carotene may also cause discoloured nails
  8. Chronic paronychia, an inflammatory disorder of nail folds
  9. Greenish black nails are caused by the growth of a bacteria pseudomonas, usually beneath loose nails.
  10. Grey nails may be caused through antimalarial medications
  11. Brown nails may occur due to thyroid, malnutrition, pregnancy or regular usage of nail polish
  12. If a yellow or red drop is noticed under nails, it may be nail psoriasis

Half Brown and half white nails

Abnormal NailsHalf white finger nails with brown at the tips could relate to kidney failure. This could be because chemical changes occur in the bloodstream and cause melanin, i.e., a skin pigmentation, to release in the bed of the nail.

40% of patients having kidney failure are seen with half white-half brown nails. This is also observed in people who have undergone chemotherapy and in HIV positive people.

White Nail

In case majority of your nail has become white it is probably a fungal infection or it could be due to reduced blood flow to the bed of the nail. This is called Terry’s nails.

Terry’s nails could occur due to the following reasons:

  1. Liver cirrhosis or liver damage.
  2. Failure of the heart, liver or kidney
  3. Diabetes
  4. Anemia, low red blood cell count due to iron deficiency
  5. Chemotherapy
  6. Hyperthyroidism
  7. Malnutrition

Thickened nails

Thickened nails are commonly caused due to nail fungus. Other reasons could be psoriasis, wearing tight shoes for a long time and reactive arthritis.

Overgrown nails that are horn-like

The big toe nail sometimes looks like a claw and would not be possible to cut using a regular nail cutter. This condition is termed as onychogryphosis and can be noticed in elderly people.

Loose nails

Abnormal NailsIf your nail is loose without being injured or over-manicuring, then the following could be the reasons for its occurrence:

  1. Fungal infection of the nail
  2. Nail psoriasis
  3. Warts around fingernails
  4. Overactive thyroid
  5. Sarcoidosis, formation of clumps of cells in tissues and organs
  6. Raynaud’s disease, poor circulation due to smoking

Spoon-shaped indented nails

Koilonychia, a disorder in which your finger nails curve like a spoon. This is due to iron deficiency or due to presence of too much of iron (haemochromatosis). It could also be caused by Raynaud’s disease or by lupus erythematosus, condition in which tissues, cells and organs are attacked by the immune system.

Pitting or denting of nails

This could be due to psoriasis, eczema, reactive arthritis or alopecia areata (hair loss in patches)

Beau’s LinesAbnormal Nails

Grooves/lines on nails from the left across to the right are termed Beau’s lines. These may occur due to the following reasons:

  1. Previous illness/injury
  2. Exposure to extreme chilled temperatures in the past in case you have had Raynaud’s disease
  3. Chemotherapy

Curved nails and finger tips

Clubbing of fingertips is the term used when the tissue below the nail thickens and tips of the fingers become bulbous or rounded and the nails cover the rounded part of the finger tips.

Abnormal NailsThis condition may be harmless and hereditary but if it arises all of a sudden, then it could mean one of the following conditions:

  1. Lung cancer, endocarditis
  2. Gut lining inflammation
  3. Bowel cancer or stomach cancer
  4. Cirrhosis
  5. Polycythaemia, the blood becomes extremely thick

Dark Striped nails

It is normal for dark-skinned people to have dark striped running down through the nails. However, dark stripes could sometimes be kind of a skin cancer. This generally affects only one nail. So if this is the case, it is best to check with your doctor.

Red/brown streaks beneath the nail

This condition is caused due to splinter haemorrhages, where there are tiny damages to blood cells.

Finding few splinters on one nail do not matter but if there are many nails that are affected, then it could be signs of psoriasis, lupus erythematosus or endocarditis, heart valve infection.

Destroyed nail

Our nails may be destroyed by biting of nails, an injury, skin diseases or overgrowth of surrounding tissue which could sometimes be cancerous or a rare genetic condition of missing nails (nail Patella syndrome).


A swollen nail fold that is red and painful is called paronychia.  This is commonly caused by Injury, irritation or infection and women are more vulnerable to this than men.  Sometimes this condition could be caused by psoriasis, HIV, diabetes or eczema.  Paronychia is either acute or chronic.

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