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:
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Psoriatic Arthritis
  • Psoriasis
  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Alopecia

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:
major pain in cold/cool/damp weather
frequent morning stiffness
cracked skin
slight stiff neck
long term neck stiffness
stiff neck
low lymphocyte count
very deformed toenails
significant neck pain
recent onset neck pain
grooves across fingernails
minor joint pain/swelling/stiffness
... 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
Rheumatoid Arthritis 92% Confirm
Ankylosing Spondylitis 54% Possible
Psoriatic Arthritis 25% Unlikely
Psoriasis 3% Ruled out
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis 2% Ruled out
Alopecia 1% 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:
Psoriasis

Nail pitting may be an early sign of psoriasis.

Concerned or curious about your health?  Try The Analyst™
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