More often than not, we only talk about nails for their aesthetic appeal, with topics concentrating on manicures, pedicures, the best nail polish remover and everything else in between. But your nails can actually give you a lot of information about your overall health.


Early warning signs

Changes in the look and consistency of the nail can serve as a warning sign of an underlying medical condition. But often we either do not pay attention to it or fail to recognise what is going on. For example, we might brush off nail discolouration believing that it is a minor issue that does not require special medical attention. Usually this is true, but in some cases it could be a symptom of a serious condition such as melanoma.


So how can you distinguish between trivial changes and symptoms that you should address immediately?


Here are some tips from that can help you identify potentially life-threatening conditions.


Changes in pigment

If a vertical strip appears on your at least one nail that is dark brown or black in colour, you should visit your physician and get it checked right away. Another thing to keep in mind is that your big toe and index finger are where melanoma is most likely to appear. You may also notice an increase in black or dark brown pigment around your nail. Interestingly though, Japanese and African American women are more prone to melanoma under their nails when compared to women of other ethnicities. Most people do not realise that life threatening cancer could manifest itself in this way. Instead you might expect to find a mole or spot on the skin instead. Unfortunately, only 30% of the population would visit a dermatologist at the early stages of melanoma under the nail. What they do not know is that where the cancer is detected early, in many cases it is curable. Treatment should be commenced as early as possible, so it is essential to do a biopsy in good time. Inaction could prove fatal.


Stay alert

If you notice anything different about your nails, it’s worth doing some research on the current condition of your nails. However, be wary of online articles that make false claims that do not apply to your situation. Reading them could only make you more anxious.


Having said this, it is worth taking your nail health seriously. There are examples of people who have undergone amputations because conditions such as melanoma were picked up too late. Consequently, it is not advisable to cover up any unsightly spots on your nails with polish unless you are sure that they are not a danger to life. As much as we all pursue beauty to feel good about ourselves and get an extra boost in confidence, we should not get carried away by vanity. So the next time you decide to have a pedicure or manicure, be sure to check the condition for your nails and if you see something you don’t recognise, have it checked out at the earliest opportunity.