Diabetes and Fingernails

Diabetes and Fingernails

How do you spot the onset of diabetes?

One way might be looking at your fingernails. 

There are currently more than 37 million Americans living with diabetes and this number is on the rise. That’s more than one out of every 10 adults in The United States, making this a national health crisis. What’s arguably even more shocking is that roughly 98 million American adults, aged 18 years and older (one out of every three of us!), are what’s referred to as pre-diabetic.

Prediabetes means that blood sugar is higher than normal but has not yet escalated to the point that a full-fledged Type 2 diabetes diagnosis is warranted. The catch about prediabetes is that when left unaddressed it almost always develops into Type 2 diabetes. To make matters worse, prediabetes rarely presents any telltale signs. Most people with prediabetes feel perfectly normal and have absolutely no idea that they are a diabetes time bomb waiting to go off.

By the time they begin feeling the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes – excessive thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, exhaustion, blurry vision – the disease has already taken hold and a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis is usually made by a physician. 

Without a doubt, the sooner prediabetes or diabetes is identified, the better the prognosis. In fact, pre-diabetes can often be reversed, or its progress can be dramatically slowed, by making lifestyle and dietary changes – without the need for insulin injections or other medication. 

But if the signs aren’t there, how do you spot these conditions? One place you might want to look is at your fingernails. Yep, fingernails. The fact is there are many medical conditions that impact the health of fingernails and toenails, and diabetes is one of them. So, if you notice changes in the appearance or strength of your nails, it might be a sign of a bigger problem.


Type 2 Diabetes and Your Nails – 4 Signs of High Blood Sugar

The high blood sugar associated with diabetes can impact your finger and toenails, leading to some visible warning signs that might indicate your blood sugar is on the high side. Here are four things to look for on your hands and feet:

  1. A slight blush at the bottom of your fingernails

Healthy nails usually have a pinkish hue and are relatively the same color from the tip to the base. However, one sign of diabetes is a flushness to the fingernails, which tends to occur at the base of the nail close to your first knuckle. If you notice that the bottom half of your fingernail is becoming a darker shade of pink or red, it could indicate the presence of prediabetes or diabetes.

  1. Nails turn yellow and more brittle

Yellow and brittle fingernails and toenails just might be an indicator of Type 2 diabetes. Brittleness and discoloring can occur because the high blood sugar associated with diabetes makes the body more prone to infection, including fungal infections in the feet and toes – specifically in the area under and around the nails. Also, yellowing can occur due to the breakdown of sugar and its effect on collagen in the nails. This type of yellowing is not harmful and does not need to be treated with medications like fungal infections. However, it very well might be a sign of deeper issues, including Type 2 diabetes. 

  1. A distinctive line forms across one or more nails

As we age, it’s not uncommon for us to develop vertical ridges on our fingers and toenails. So, if you see little ridges running up and down your toenails, it’s likely just a reminder that you’re getting older. But if you notice a horizontal line or ridge running across your finger or toenail, it’s something to note because it could be a sign of Type 2 diabetes.

When blood sugar elevates above the normal range, especially if it remains high for an extended period, it can lead to horizontal marks or indentations known as Beau’s Lines. It’s important to note that these lines can be cause by other conditions as well, including thyroid problems (another metabolic disorder). Still, if you notice the appearance of Beau’s Lines, it’s a good idea to contact your medical provider. 

  1. Nails appear shorter than usual

Short nails might be a sign that your blood sugar is elevated. This isn’t true, of course, if they’re short because you recently clipped them or are among the many individuals with the nervous habit of biting your nails. But if it seems your nails don’t grow as fast as they used to, it could be related to blood sugar.

One of the complications associated with Type 2 diabetes is nerve damage called neuropathy. In some instances, this nerve damage can inhibit the growth of finger and toenails. So, if you’re not feeling the need to clip as once as you often did, consider talking to your doctor about testing for Type 2 diabetes. 

Changes to the finger and toenails are affects that prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes might have on the body. However, they have nothing to do with your actual risk for developing diabetes and knowing this can be even more important than recognizing the signs.

If you have not yet been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes but are living with some of the key risk factors associated with it, you should talk to your doctor about being screened. The good news is a simple blood test can determine whether you are diabetic and can also tell your doctor if your blood sugar measures in the prediabetic range.


Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include: 

– Obesity/overweight

– Too little physical activity/exercise (less than 3 times a week)

– Family member who has been diagnosed with diabetes

– High-carb/high-sugar diet

– 45 years or older

– Have been diagnosed with prediabetes

– Have had gestational diabetes during a pregnancy

If you experience more than one of these factors, it’s a good idea to speak with your physician about getting tested for Type 2 diabetes. Again, the sooner you identify a problem, the sooner you can take steps to properly treat diabetes or prevent or delay its onset if you are prediabetic.

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