Nailing the Diagnosis

Nail – A window to bone and joint health

Take a long hard look at your nail as they may be saying something about health of your joints and bones. A recent study show that a mineral deficiency in toe nails is linked to risk of Osteoarthritis and finger nails give doctors a clue about the condition that elevate the risk of Osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA), sometimes called Degenerative Changes, is the most common chronic condition of the joints. It may affect different parts of body including

  1. Knees
  2. Fingers
  3. Feet
  4. Hip
  5. Cervical Spine
  6. Lumbar Spine
  7. Riz arthritis of the thumb (Suffered by Manual Professionals)

In 2005, a research was presented in American College of Rheumatology (Atlanta) which shows that people with lower level of mineral “Selenium” are more prone to develop OA of knees. To prove the presence of Selenium in toe nails, clippings from 1000 people were measured as toe nails grow slowly and they reflect selenium level in the body. From past several months up to a year ago, no one realized and investigated if Selenium might be related to OA. Studies suggest that deficiency of selenium is common in many parts of Asia as they are not rich in this mineral. People in these areas tend to develop Kashin Beck Disease known as Arthritis Big Joint Disease. Another study shows that abnormal formation of Disulfide bonds in cells causes problems in nails and bones. Disulfide bonds are needed for joining Protein Molecules such as Nail Protein Keratin and Bones Protein Collagen. Research of Dr. Mark Towler from University of Limerick (Ireland) depicts that weak nails among Osteoporosis delved in to nails and bone properties. Result of his work is a device called “Selectis Bone Quality Test”. This test diagnoses Osteoporosis by analyzing the Disulfide Bonds in nail clippings. Device used in the test in as accurate as Dexa Scan which is currently being used to diagnose Osteoporosis and it is less expensive. On top of it, this test doesn’t require the presence of patient as only patient’s nail is needed. Suggest

Reducing Risks

To avoid the risk of Osteoarthritis, eat plenty of food which contains selenium.

  1. Nuts
  2. Meats
  3. Poultry
  4. Fish
  5. Whole grains

Do not increase the intake of any Vitamin or Mineral (including Selenium) without the consultation of physician. It might lead to Selenium Toxicity and increased harm to bones & joints.


  1. Stanley Birge, “Should you Supplement Selenium?” 2006, Washington University, School of Medicine, St. Louis.
  2. , J.M., 2006. Selenium & OA Development, Thurston Arthritis Research Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
  3. , M . 2006. Weak Nails among Osteoporosis Patient, Arthritis Foundation, University of Limerick, Ireland.
  4. Osteoarthritis Foundation, 2015. [Online] Available at <> [Accessed 15 December 2015]


Dr. Shafi Muhammad Chawdhry