Clues about your health could be right at your fingertips. Take a look at your nails. They could give insight about possible health concerns.
Many nail changes are normal and nothing to worry about. But sometimes changes in the way your nails look and grow can be a sign of disease. Nails are actually specialized skin cells. They’re made of keratin, a protein also found in your hair and skin.
“Nails aren’t just for appearances,” explains New York University’s Dr. Mayumi Ito, who studies how skin cells regenerate. Your nails protect the ends of your fingers and toes. They also help you grip objects and pick off small things. It would be harder to turn the pages of a book or pick up a thread without fingernails.
The part of the nail you can see is called the nail plate. Nails grow from a region at the base of the nail under the skin called the nail matrix. Here, new nail cells are made and packed together. Older nail cells are then pushed to the surface of the fingertip. Ito was the first to identify thein the nail matrix that cause nails to grow.