Nail Conditions: Identifying what is inside, from the outside

Our nails are very important to us. We file them, we polish them, we take collagen just to strengthen them. We pick all the colours of the rainbow for them. We cover them in glitter and some people have made full-time careers from looking after them. Whether it be on our fingers or on our toes, we use them to reveal our inner personality.

But do we ever take the time, mid-shellac manicure, to examine them? Nail conditions are very common but often unnoticed.

Every inch of our bodies tells our medical story. From the dry itchy follicle resting on our scalp to the bruising emerging on our skin. Doctors use every sign, every minor imperfection to X-ray you to your core. So why not do it for yourself? Below are a few important nail conditions that can be identified through examination of your nails. Don’t forget your toes have nails too!

Tar Staining   (cigarettes)

Identifying tar stains signals someone who is prone to serious underlying lung disease, reduced ability to carry oxygen and susceptibility to serious lung infections. It also suggests a cause for poor wound healing, high blood pressure and increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. So if you have tar stains – think again before smoking your next cigarette.


Nail detached from the nail bed (Onycholysis)  

This is regularly caused by thyroid dysfunction – affecting your body’s metabolism, or psoriasis – causing scaly plaques on your skin or from local trauma.

Spoon Shaped Nails (Koilonychia)

Spoon-shaped nails can occur due to trauma or iron deficiency. Most women of childbearing age are at heightened risk of iron deficiency.

White Spots (Leukonychia)

We were always being told these white spots meant you weren’t consuming enough calcium. The truth is they are due to trauma, protein deficiency, fungal infections or lymphoma.


Nail conditions are vast and much more extensive than the few listed here. The most important thing to note is if something is new for you.


This post was written by Dr Jenna Burton, a Pall Mall Medical expert. If you have concerns regarding changes to your nails, contact us at Pall Mall Medical where one of our friendly doctors will be happy to see you.

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