The half-moon shape at the base of the fingernail is called the ‘Lunula’ in medical terms. This is the fancy Latin way of saying ‘Moon-like’. You and the person who named this fingernail structure both decided that it looked like a half-moon. Pretty cool if u ask me! We are no smarter than the people who came before us, but we have the benefit of their experience.
You wanted to know \*WHY\* this region of the fingernail is discolored, or at least why it’s colored differently from the rest of the nail. The answer is that this region of the fingernail forms part of the NAIL MATRIX. This is basically the root of the nail bed, which is the region that’s responsible for the growth of the entire fingernail.
If you damage the lunula of the nail, then you can often see predictable results. This is the house where the rest of the nail is built. Much of the nail matrix lives under the skin at the base of your fingernail. Damaging the nail matrix will affects the growth of the entire nail.
You’ll sometimes see lines called Beau’s Lines if you damage the lunula or the portion of the nail that’s more proximal to it (google beau’s lines if you’d like). By looking at the distance of these lines from the nail matrix, you can tell approximately how long ago the injury happened. Many pathologies and infections (e.g. fungal infections) can affect the nail matrix.
If you look at your fingernails, you’ll notice light areas at the base. These are moons, or lunulae. Their change in color, shape, or size can indicate not only the presence of a disease but also the predisposition to it. Such diagnostics help you notice the problem in time and take action.
Here are 13 Health Problems the Moons on Your Nails Warn You About
When a lunula changes on one finger
A lunula on the little finger, as a rule, should be almost unnoticeable or completely absent. It’s connected with the work of the kidneys, small intestine, and heart. An increased lunula can be a result of high blood pressure.
The ring finger is responsible for the work of the reproductive and lymphatic systems. A barely visible lunula can hint at digestion problems.
The middle finger is connected with the work of the brain and cardiovascular system. The absence of a lunula can indicate vascular problems and high blood pressure.
The index finger lunula can disappear or get considerably smaller because of improper function of the intestine, pancreas, or chronic E.N.T. diseases.
The lunula on the thumb reflects the work of the lungs and spleen. It’s the most visible of all and should take up no more than 25% of the whole fingernail. It can get significantly smaller in smokers or bigger when you have arterial hypertension.
Overly large lunulae
Lunulae are considered large when they occupy a third (or more) of the fingernail. They indicate problems with the cardiovascular system, heartbeat disruption, and low blood pressure.
Large lunulae can be often found in athletes and people whose occupation is connected with physical activity. If a person isn’t involved in sports, enlarged lunulae may appear because of a high level of stress.
Small lunulae, which can be barely seen behind the cuticle, indicate low blood pressure and circulatory disorders. This can be a sign of a weak immune system, poor metabolism, or lack of iron and B12.
If the lunulae are noticeably separated from the rest of the nail plate with transverse lines, it indicates problems with blood sugar levels and the possible development of diabetes.
Lunulae aren’t visible at all
Don’t panic if you haven’t found lunulae on your own or your child’s nails. They’re often not visible on children’s nails and appear over time. In some people, they don’t appear at all due to physiological specificities of the nail structure.
However, a sudden disappearance of lunulae is perceived by modern medicine as one of the symptoms of a circulatory disorder. This study showed that the absence of lunulae is connected with thyroid gland disorders and a deficit of vitamin B12 and iron.
Change in lunulae color
Gray lunulae indicate severe fatigue, digestion disorders, and possible difficulties in nutrient absorption.
White lunulae are healthy and natural. The moons should be several shades lighter than the skin.
Purple lunulae are a sign of poor blood circulation and a lack of oxygen in the organs and tissues. Dizziness and headaches may often occur.
Pink (red) lunulae may indicate low physical activity and lung problems.
Black lunulae are an uncommon and extremely dangerous sign. As a rule, this is a symptom of heavy metal poisoning.
How to take care of hands and nails at home
Fingernail care: Do’s
To keep your fingernails looking their best:
- Keep fingernails dry and clean. This prevents bacteria from growing under your fingernails. Repeated or prolonged contact with water can contribute to split fingernails. Wear cotton-lined rubber gloves when washing dishes, cleaning or using harsh chemicals.
- Practice good nail hygiene. Use a sharp manicure scissors or clippers. Trim your nails straight across, then round the tips in a gentle curve.
- Use moisturizer. When you use hand lotion, rub the lotion into your fingernails and cuticles, too.
- Apply a protective layer. Applying a nail hardener might help strengthen nails.
- Ask your doctor about biotin. Some research suggests that the nutritional supplement biotin might help strengthen weak or brittle fingernails.
Fingernail care: Don’ts
To prevent nail damage, don’t:
- Bite your fingernails or pick at your cuticles. These habits can damage the nail bed. Even a minor cut alongside your fingernail can allow bacteria or fungi to enter and cause an infection.
- Pull off hangnails. You might rip live tissue along with the hangnail. Instead, carefully clip off hangnails.
- Use harsh nail care products. Limit your use of nail polish remover. When using nail polish remover, opt for an acetone-free formula.
- Ignore problems. If you have a nail problem that doesn’t seem to go away on its own or is associated with other signs and symptoms, consult your doctor or dermatologist for an evaluation.
A note about manicures and pedicures
If you rely on manicures or pedicures for healthy-looking nails, keep a few things in mind. Stick to salons that display a current state license, and work only with technicians also licensed by the state board. Don’t have your cuticles removed — they act to seal the skin to the nail plate, so removal can lead to nail infection. Also, make sure your nail technician properly sterilizes all tools used during your procedure to prevent the spread of infection.
You might also ask how the foot baths are cleaned. Ideally, a bleach solution is used between clients and the filters are cleaned regularly.
It’s easy to neglect your nails — but taking some basic steps can keep your fingernails healthy and strong.