The fingernails don't lie

With 11 years of lupus under my belt, and a chronic control spread sheet to go along with it, I tend to have a pretty good handle on when I'm in "good health" and when I'm not. Thankfully, I've had many more healthy trends than not - so I haven't had much to track in the old spreadsheet as of late. But one thing I was keeping my eye on was my weight. When I get sick - I tend to lose my appetite. And with no appetite, comes weight loss. And last fall, I was losing weight. Not a ton - more than 5 pounds, less than 15 - but it was significant enough that I noticed. And my pants noticed. And most importantly, my parents noticed. And when they notice, I have to sit up and listen.

So I did. I mentioned it to my doctor, and we watched it carefully. We kept my appointments close together so that he could monitor things frequently. And I kept an eye on my symptoms, which, thankfully, were non-existent. There was no joint pain, no swelling, no increased protein at all. There was absolutely no sign that lupus was a foot. Just the weight loss.

And the nails.

Turns out, my fingernails weren't growing either. It wasn't that they were growing and peeling, or breaking, or's just that they weren't growing. At all. And this coincidence has happened before - in fact a handful of times. If my body's not well, my nails tend not to grow. And when my body is well - my nails grow steadily.

So now - mid-winter, there's good news across the board: my appetite has returned, my weight is making its way back to normal, and my nails are going strong. Not sure if I could ever prove the connection - but I'm not so sure I need to. I think running with a hunch is just fine for now.

Of course, if my nails have earned a line item on the spreadsheet...well, then...I guess they've "arrived", haven't they?

Here's wikipedia's take on nail growth, and thoughts from WebMD, and Nothing particularly conclusive, although the mention of nutrition sure seems to make sense.  Guess it's just a little food for thought!


Anonymous said…
Sara, you truly hit the nail on the head! For our family members with chronic illnesses,both young and older, the finger and toe nails and nail beds have been a consistent indicator of good or poor underlying health. Likewise, the rate of hair growth, loss of hair, etc have also been telltale signs, even before we had a confirmed medical diagnosis. We have learned through these body indicators to trust our eyes and our instincts, even if physicians do not initially share our concerns. Our bodies often send strong signals, and we are learning to be very open to receiving those signals. Catherine
JillyB said…
Hi Sara! This is my first post. I too have lupus along with Scleroderma since the age of 15 and I'm 44 now. I too have lost a tremendous amount of weight. I struggle to keep myself above 90 lbs. To keep my weight up, I drink a lot of Boost Plus which has 340 calories & 8 grams of protein per 8ounces. I drink about 6-8 of them per day & they really help!! My nails benefit also. They are long and very strong. Hope this post helps a bit. Love your book and this site!! Thanks so much! Jill
Sara Gorman said…
Oh, the hair most CERTAINLY doesn't lie! I'm sure we'd both agree that, above anyone else, we know our bodies best. Learning to watch for those signals, accept them as facts, rather than just happenings to brush aside, can take some time. But from my personal experience - now that I'm in the habit of being self-aware, it makes the process of cluing in my doctor that much easier!

Thanks for your comments, Catherine!

And JillyB - thanks for commenting! Great tips on the Boost Plus - I bet that protein helps a lot. I find myself craving protein (and milk) quite often - so I try and listen to my body to give it what it needs. I suppose the real challenge is fueling it, even when our appetites are non-existent! Hope to hear from you again!
christina said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
christina said…
Hi Sarah! I also have lupus and I have noticed that my nails are not growing. My finger and toe nails get really thick and when I clip a piece of nail away, I am left with a big build up of nail jammed What is interesting is my only other issue right now is my weight. I can't keep any weight on and went from 115 to 97 in a month and have been fighting to get back above 100. I would love to keep in touch because I think we could have a similar case and could help each other by sharing as time goes on. Thanks for reassuring me that I'm not imagining my nail symptoms like everyone else tries to convince me.

Christina, 26, NYC
john said…
Polished, shellacked, gelled or sparkled–many of us rarely see our nails in the nude. But what happens when the paint comes off? Do your nails hold up in the buff? Well ladies, it’s time to strip down and find out.No Miss Antifungal Fungus Killer
Victoria Grantham said…
Hi Sara! I can only echo what you and others have said about finger nail issues. Mine have been slow to grow off and on, but the main problem is the thinness, peeling, breaking and splitting. Gel nails looked appealing but, after having a "regular" manicure for my son's wedding in June I know I won't try anything else with my nails. The manicurist tried to gently buff the ridges down and now my nails are truly paper thin and just won't grow. I'm in the middle of a flair which doesn't help, but it was a lesson learned. I have type 2 diabetes as well, so maintaining good nail and foot health is of utmost importance. At 54 years of age, I've decided my vanity can withstand short, plain nails and graying hair. Prior to June, I was losing a small handful of hair in the shower daily and since I've stopped coloring it, it's stopped falling out. Of course, the grown kids moving out of the house around the same time may have helped, lol. Less stress is always a welcome thing. Anyway, just wanted to comment on the finger nails. Don't even get me started on the toe nails! *sigh* I can barely remember what it's like to be a "girly" girl anymore. It's just wonderful to have hair on my head today! ;-)
Tinkerer said…
I'm 59 years old. The last twenty years I have been losing my energy levels. Forgetting even the most obvious words. I have told many Doctors as if you do not have great insurance you get the clinics. Which unfortunetly have to move you through quick as they can to keep their money coming in. Long talks about your health are a thing of the past now.
Now the internet. I had my first butterfly rash 2015. Had bloodwork done and they told me everything was normal. My doctor noticed the rash. I thought I had just sunburned my face. Something I haven't done since childhood. He suggested I get the test that came up normal. I was relieved; however, it would of been nice to know what is wrong with me. As I have survived three strokes with no answer to what is causing them. ( I was told stress but at that time I lived on a farm on Maui; not very stressful)
I looked up the symptoms of Lupus. Everything except the blood work I have is listed in the symptoms. Lupus fog I can't remember the simplest words. It is like charades. I know you walk through it. I know it has hinges. I know it has a handle on it. (Door) But I cannot see the common word used. I can go from the front of the house to the backyard and not forget what I was looking for. No I remember something completely different. If I was looking for a Oak tree. I would get in the back yard and think I was looking for a Pine tree. Even if I use the old make a song out of it trick. Now my nails that were so hard I had to cut them with toenail clippers. Now the ditris part of the nail. Is brittle cracks and tears. Overnight bags have occurred under my eyes. I woke up one morning looking like a Basset hound. I have never had baggy eyes even when I was cramming in college. So I'm very interested in Lupus now. My doctor said that although my blood panels came back normal. It does not mean I don't have Lupus. Well I guess now it is a wait and see. Thanks for posting things like this. Information on LuPus seems only to be pharmaceuticals advertising their meds.
Sara Gorman said…
I hope you geto some conclusive evidence soon! Sounds like a lot of symptoms that could add up to lupus, but it can be such a tricky disease to pin down. Keep us posted - i'm sure others who are in limbo can identify, so thanks for sharing!
Unknown said…
I understand being in limbo with doctors that can’t diagnose me with lupus because tests are negative but symptoms are there. We know our bodies and when something is not right. I have researched and determined that it is lupus. Keep the faith ladies and remember that doctors don’t know everything. Keep the faith and thanks for posting!
Sara Gorman said…
K T Moffett - Stick with your gut feeling, and don't give up on your doctors. Keep after a productive way. :) Do ask your doctor if there are symptoms (or group of symptoms) that you can watch for that would conclusively point to lupus. Once those tests catch up with your symptoms, you're golden! Take care and we'll be thinking of you!

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