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Color of Fingernails and Toenails Health Indicator Chart

  • Published: 2015-10-11 (Revised/Updated 2018-02-27) : Author: Disabled World : Contact:
  • Synopsis: The nail color of fingernails and toenails can reveal certain serious health conditions for instance white nails may be indicative of kidney or liver disorders or anemia.
Nail (Anatomy)

A nail, in anatomy, is defined as a horn-like envelope covering the tips of the fingers and toes in humans, most non-human primates, and a few other mammals. Finger and toe nails are similar to claws in other animals.

Fingernails and toenails are made of a tough protective protein called keratin. Keratin is one of a family of fibrous structural proteins, and is the key structural material making up hair, horns, claws, hooves, and the outer layer of human skin. Healthcare and pre-hospital-care providers (EMTs or paramedics) often use the fingernail beds (CRT or blanch test) as a cursory indicator of distal tissue perfusion of individuals who may be dehydrated or in shock.

Main Document

"In Caucasian people, color bands under the nail may indicate cancer, while in non-Caucasian people it is usually a normal occurrence."

Healthy fingernails and toenails should generally be a pink color - with the healthy nail plate being pink, and the nail being white in color as it grows off the nail bed. Fingernail color and condition changes are rarely the first clue of serious illness. In most instances, patients will manifest other signs or symptoms of disease before nail changes become evident.

Nail colors can generally be grouped into black, blue, brown/copper, green, blue-green, grey, yellow, pale, purple or red groups - each color means something different. Keep in mind that your nails may look a particular way for another reason totally unrelated to your health, but could be due to mechanical or environmental influences. Your beauty therapist and manicurist should also be able to guide you in this field.

When healthy fingernails begin to change color or texture, one of the most common underlying causes is nail fungus, which can cause the nails to crack, peel, and change color and texture. Common disorders like thyroid disease can also cause abnormalities in the toenail and fingernail beds, often producing dry brittle nails that crack and split easily.

Nails never stop growing. They must be cut from time to time. Nail trimming tools used by different people can transmit nail infections. By using standard hygiene and sanitation procedures you can avoid this transmission. In some cases, gel and cream cuticle removers can be used instead of cuticle scissors.

Nail Color Health Chart
Jump To Nail Color or Condition:
Blue nails

Blue fingernails, also known as azure lunula (medical term - cyanosis), are characterized by a blue discoloration of the lunulae. Blue Fingernails Can be Indicative of:

  • Argyria - A condition caused by exposure to chemical compounds of the element silver.
  • Hepatolenticular degeneration (Wilson's disease)
  • Raynaud's disease - The fingers and toes blanch, then turn blue and may become numb or painful on exposure to cold.
  • Septicemia - Also known as bacteremia or blood poisoning. Septicemia occurs when a bacterial infection enters the bloodstream.
  • Lung and breathing problems - Including asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory disorders.
  • Blue fingernails may represent a type of cyanosis caused by a lower level of lack of circulating oxygen in the red blood cells.
  • May also represent a high level of an abnormal form of hemoglobin in the circulation.
  • If normal color returns upon warming and/or massage, the cause is due to the body part not getting enough blood supply due to cold, constriction (of the tissues or the blood vessels that supply the tissues) or some other reason.
  • If the fingernails remain blue, then there may be an underlying disease or structural abnormality interfering with the body's ability to deliver oxygenated red blood cells to the body.
Black Nails
White or Pale Fingernails
  • May be indicative of kidney or liver disorders or anemia.
  • White lined bands across the nail beds can signal a protein deficiency.
  • White nails with a rim of darker color at the tip of the nail is called Terry's nail and can be a sign of cirrhosis of the liver
White Spots on Nails
  • In most cases this is due to a zinc deficiency or injuries to the nail bed.
  • Indicative of certain internal problems such as arthritis, or from poisoning.
  • Iron or zinc deficiency

Although it has been noted that white lines can be symptoms of a serious disorder, their presence is more than likely a result of iron or zinc deficiency.

White Areas Under Nails
  • When there are white areas visible under the nail, normally at the tip of the nail where it joins the nail bed, this normally indicates a fungal infection and must be treated medically.
  • Half white nails, with dark spots, especially on the tip, may be indicative of kidney diseases.
Grey Nails
Green Nails
  • Allergies to cleaning agents
  • Bacterial infection such as Bacillus infection
  • Localized fungal infection
  • Serious emphysema
Yellow Nails
  • Can be indicative of problems with the lymphatic system
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Diabetes or liver problems
  • Nicotine from cigarette smoking
  • Yellow discoloration in your fingernails can also result from a respiratory condition, such as chronic bronchitis, or from swelling of your hands (lymphedema).

In yellow nail syndrome, nails thicken and new growth slows, resulting in discoloration. Nails affected with this condition may lack a cuticle and may detach from the nail bed in places.

Purple Nails
  • Oxygen deprivation
  • Circulatory problems
  • Congenital problems
Red Fingernails
Darkening of Nails (on sides)
Lines on Nails (red/brown)
  • Splinter hemorrhage shows up as red or brown lines along the long axis of the nail and may be caused by endocarditis (an inflammation of the heart membranes) or trichinosis (a parasitic infection from undercooked pork).
  • A simple dark blue line in the fingernail can be a sign of skin cancer.
  • Tiny black streaks can indicate a possible heart problem.
  • Thin black lines on the nail often indicate a heart disease.
Brown Spots Under Nails
  • Pitted brown spots in fingernails may indicate a skin and joint disorder called psoriasis.
  • Reddish-brown spots can indicate a deficiency of folic acid, protein or vitamin C.
Color Bands
  • In Caucasian people, color bands under the nail may indicate cancer, while in non-Caucasian people it is usually a normal occurrence.
Fingernail Ridges, Pitting and Shape
  • For information regarding fingernail shape, pitting, spoon nails, vertical or horizontal fingernail ridges, click here.

Tips to Improve Fingernail Appearance, Maintain Healthy nails, and Avoid Nail Infections

To maintain healthy fingernails ask your doctor to take a look at them during your next checkup. Dermatologists are well-trained in deciphering between innocuous and serious nail conditions, as well as determining when a nail color change requires further testing.

Note: This information regarding your nail color mirroring your general health, is provided for information purposes only, and should NOT be used to diagnose or treat any illness. If in doubt regarding your health, please consult your doctor.

Facts: Human Nail Facts

Healthy fingernail picture
About This Image: Healthy fingernail picture

Basic Structures of Finger and Toenails

(See diagram above)

Fingernail &Toenail Facts

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