The integumentary system of the body includes the skin, hair, and nails, along with the glands, and nerves. While its primary function is to be the body’s first line of defense from the external agents, the integumentary system is also responsible to retain body fluids, protect the body against illness, regulate body temperature, and eliminate waste products. According to Science Net Links, the integumentary system also serves as a receptor for touch, pressure, pain, heat, and cold.
Among the members of the integumentary system, the nails are responsible for protecting the fingertip, the distal phalanx, as well as the surrounding soft tissues from injuries. In addition, they assist in subtle movements of the distal digits of the hands through counter-pressure acted upon the pulp of the finger. According to Derm Web, the nails also aid in the appreciation of fine touch, as well as in picking up small objects. Aside from being as an organ for aesthetics, the nails, in animals are utilized for locomotion (hoof) or as a prehensile organ (claw).
Along with the skin and hair, the nails are also capable of giving signals about the body’s health. According to Web MD, the color and texture of the nails can reflect a broad spectrum of medical conditions. Cleveland Clinic Florida dermatologist Tamara Lior told Web MD that the nails are just like the eyes; they are also windows to the soul.
There are times in which one could feel that the nails are breakable or easily bendable. Some people also feel that they could peel their nails or think that their nails might constantly split. According to Prevention, nails similar to this condition may be related to advancing age, or as sign that they have been overexposed to manicures, acrylic nails, or gel wraps. The publication added that this could also be related to lack of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B, specifically vitamin B7 or biotin, which is responsible for keeping the nails strong.
As per Web MD, white nails are associated to liver disease, such as hepatitis, while half-white and half-pink nails suggest kidney disease. Pale or white nail beds are also indicative of anemia while red nail beds reflect a heart disease. Lung diseases like emphysema can be detected if the nails are thick, slow-growing, and yellowish in color, while diabetes mellitus may be present if the nails have a slight bush at the base and are yellow in color. If there are dark lines under the nail, then a medical consult with a health professional should be considered, as this nail characteristic is associated to melanoma.
Meanwhile, the presence of irregular red lines at the base of the nail fold may suggest lupus or connective tissue disease while pitting or ripping of the nail surface may pin point psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis.
Some ways to make the nails stronger and distant from infection are keeping them clean and dry, avoiding nail-biting or picking, applying moisturizer everyday to prevent cracking, filing them in one direction and round the tip slightly, not removing the cuticles, not digging out ingrown toenails, avoiding nail polish removers that have acetone or formaldehyde, bringing one’s own instruments for manicure, checking artificial nails for green discoloration, and eating a well-balanced diet, along with vitamins containing biotin.
With the aforementioned information, it is important to consult a doctor if there is any noticeable change in the nails. Since the nails present possible signs of disease, they can help a person identify a disease and resolve it as early as possible.