The effect of diabetes on fingernail quality

By Kavindra Sahabir ‘21

Figure 1. Diabetes is a disease affecting more than just blood sugar levels, it affects tissue and organs that are currently unmeasurable.

In our current public understanding, Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is associated with the need for sugar-free foods and blood sugar monitors. Beyond a high blood sugar level however, it also causes chronic degradation and damage to nerves, joints, and other bodily tissues. A study done by Dr. Silhota and team endeavored to determine whether the fingernail could be a useful site to measure the amount of tissue degradation and provide an accessible way to determine tissue quality in people with T2D.

In this experiment, nail quality was measured against three groups of middle-aged people, with an average size of 20-30. One group, which was the control, was classified as healthy with an average HbA1c level of 5.4. This level is the measure of hemoglobin (HbA1c) in the body, which is a measure of blood sugar level. The two other groups were controlled diabetes (DC), which meant that they actively took care of their diabetes, and uncontrolled diabetes (UD), with average HbA1c levels of 6.6 and 8.4 respectively.

The study found that nail quality, which involved mineral analysis, varied significantly between all three groups. In particular calcium content, as measured in relation to the control group, was found to decrease by 6.3% in the DC group and 75% in the UD group. The disulfide bond content, which contributes to the stability of the fingernail, was found to decrease by 30% for the DC group and around 66% in the UD group in relation to the control group.

These results show that an analysis of nail quality can actually serve as a method for determining the amount of degradation the tissue in a diabetic person’s body has undergone, with clear trends in the decrease of the mineral quality of the nails as the HbA1c % increases. This supports the authors’ hypothesis and provides a new way to assess the bone quality of people suffering from T2D, which may one day allow doctors and even patients to keep better track of the progression of diabetes.

  1. P. Silhota, et. al., Investigation of diabetic patient’s fingernail quality to monitor type 2 diabetes induced tissue damage. Scientific Reports, (2019). doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-39951-3  
  2. Image retrieved from:

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