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Can fingernail growth indicate health problems?

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Quick Answer

Fingernail growth can indicate health problems, according to Mayo Clinic. This is particularly true with changes in nail color and growth patterns. Changes such as ridges in the nail and white spots are common and not correlated to any larger health issues.

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Full Answer

Healthy nails have smooth surfaces that do not show any discoloration or groove, explains Mayo Clinic. Nails are part of the skin, with layers of protein keratin that grow from the cuticle and replace themselves as the nail grows. Some changes in growth patterns could signal general health issues affecting this process. Discoloration in the nails, especially if they turn red or yellow or become covered with stripes, can indicate more serious underlying conditions. Such changes may be caused by nail fungus, but they could also be a sign of skin cancer, liver failure, kidney problems or a variety of respiratory ailments.

Some differences in nail growth may be caused by stress, Mayo Clinic advises. Previous medical conditions such as high fever, injuries or infections can also cause temporary changes in the way nails grow. This occurs because the body adjusts its processes to any extra demands placed on it. Other changes such as clubbing of the nails, which is when the surface curves more than usual, or pitting can also signal serious conditions, and individuals should consult a physician.

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