HUFFPOST VIDEO
01/24/2014 12:24 pm ET Updated Jan 24, 2014

What Your Nails Say About Your Health (WATCH)

During a routine checkup, most patients expect to have their blood drawn, step on a scale, then open up and say, 'ahhh.' But one doctor suggests that there could be an added benefit to examining an often overlooked body part: your fingernails. Dr. Dana Stern, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Icahn School Of Medicine, joined HuffPost Live to discuss what nails can tell us about our overall health.

"[Your fingernails are] an amazing part of a typical physical examine because they really can offer so many clues about our health in general," she told host Nancy Redd. "They can provide an astute physician indications that things may be going on internally that, you know, even the average physician might not even be aware of."

Stern, who specializes in nail disorders, described some of the symptoms to look out for, such as a change in nail shape. "There's something called koilonychia, which is when the nails are actually spoon-shaped so that, if you picture a drop of water being able to kind of balance on the top of the nail plate. The nails are concave. And that finding can be indicative of somebody who possibly has anemia or a low red blood cell count."

"There are so many physical findings that we can observe and that can indicate potentially serious systemic abnormalities."

Discolored lines on fingernails are another warning sign Dr. Stern called out. "There are something called Mees' lines, which are white, transverse, almost stripes that appear on the nail," she said. "And that can classically be indicative of arsenic poisoning, believe it or not. However, there are a whole host of other causes for Mees' lines. But the classic is actually arsenic poisoning. A lot of well water has arsenic in it."

Watch the whole conversation on HuffPost Live.

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