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This Is What a Black Line on Your Nail Means

 Your nails can reveal a great deal about your health. One thing to look out for is a dark mark on your nail, which might be more serious than you think. That's the warning one woman received when she complained to her nail technician about a black vertical line on her thumbnail. Initially, she had wanted a dark nail polish to cover the stripe on her nail, which ran from her cuticle to the edge of her nail.
The woman had been going to salons for years where workers told her the black line was either a blood blister, a sign of calcium deficiency, or just a hereditary mark. But, in this visit, the nail technician told her to go see a doctor immediately - and she did. A couple of weeks later, the woman called to tell the nail technician that the vertical black stripe on her nail had been diagnosed as an aggressive melanoma, which had spread to her lymph nodes. 
black line on nail

Nail melanoma is officially called subungual melanoma if it is under the nail, or periungual melanoma if it's around the nail - rare, but potentially deadly. Half of all melanoma cases occur in those of Asian decent, 35% in darker-skinned people, and just 2.5% in white individuals.

One of the reasons why this is so serious is because more often than not, patients do not receive an accurate diagnosis right away. In fact, more often than not, the average delay of diagnosis for subungual melanoma patients is two and a half years, and it's not because people don't notice the black mark, but rather because it is usually attributed to something else.

In addition, a subungual melanoma looks like something called a subungual hematoma, or a 'blood blister. This is usually caused by some kind of trauma, which may be caused by slamming your finger in the car door. This will cause the tiny blood vessels underneath your nail to rupture, causing blood to leak out and discolor the nail. 


In this instance, however, a new, healthy nail will begin to grow in and the discolored nail will grow out. The pattern of discoloration also tends to be more irregular, with puddles or drops, while with subungual melanoma, it develops as an organized band, arising in the root of the nail and extending to its edge. 

So, if you notice a new, dark mark underneath any of your fingernails or toenails, and can't remember any kind of trauma that could have caused it. Your doctor will probably do a biopsy to check for melanoma. The good news is that if you catch it early, surgical removal can get rid of any of the cancerous cells before they're able to spread.     

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