Dents In Fingernails

What Causes Pitted Fingernails?

Pitted fingernails can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'worrying' to 'serious'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose pitted fingernails, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "pitted fingernails" as a symptom.  Here are six possibilities:
  • Alopecia
  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Psoriasis
  • Psoriatic Arthritis
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
long term neck pain
cracked skin
pain in cold/cool/damp weather
dry eyes
genital sores
highly elevated ANA levels
brittle fingernails
fatigue after slight exertion
frequent morning stiffness
severe fatigue after slight exertion
yellow/yellowish fingernails
grooves across fingernails
... and more than 20 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of pitted fingernails:
Cause Probability Status
Alopecia 97% Confirm
Psoriasis 58% Possible
Rheumatoid Arthritis 18% Unlikely
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis 3% Ruled out
Ankylosing Spondylitis 2% Ruled out
Psoriatic Arthritis 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate abnormal fingernails and toenails, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
Is the surface of your nails pitted with small 'dents'?
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ No
→ Yes
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate pitted nails, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Concerned or curious about your health?  Try The Analyst™
Symptom Entry
Symptom Entry
Full Explanations
Optional Doctor Review
Review (optional)
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