A person’s nails are a window into their body, with the condition of the nails often one of the first signs that a health concern is developing. Nails are unique to each individual and a major factor in why they grow the way that they do is heredity. However, there are other forces that may interfere with what the nail naturally wants to do. With proper care and occasional medical treatment, the nails can be conditioned to grow the way that you want them to.
Nails begin to form in the nail matrix, which is a pale, half-moon shaped section peeking out from under the cuticle (though it’s usually hidden on smaller nails). The specialized tissue churns out cells at a rapid pace and promptly cannibalizes them for their keratin, a tough, fibrous protein that gives skin its leathery texture. As the keratin-rich cells build up, they push the nail plate forwards and upwards towards the tip. Damage to the nail plate, the cuticle or the nail matrix can interfere with the growth of the nail. Infections, such as fungi or bacteria, can also impact the growth of the nails.
Spoon-shaped nails, called koilonychia, can be a sign of anemia, a condition that causes the blood to be low in red blood cells and other nutrients that carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common types of anemia, and it can cause symptoms like over exhaustion and a lack of stamina. Other conditions that can contribute to anemia include hemochromatosis, sickle cell disease, thallium, vitamin deficiency and diseases that interfere with circulation.