Nail Diseases And Disorders
There are many disorders of the nail which are irregularities in growth or blemishes that can be treated and in some cases improved with professional salon treatments. Nail diseases are usually characterised by the presence of infection, soreness or irritation but can also be caused by a health disorder.
List Of Nail Diseases
Onychomycosis (Tinea Unguiem)
Tinea is a fungal infection caused by a vegetable parasite, another term used for this condition is Ringworm. There are many forms of ringworm fungi that can affect many parts of the body but Tinea Unguiem relates specifically to the fingernails, with Candida Albicans being the most common fungus to affect this body part. Fungi are transmitted from one person to another through direct or indirect contact e.g. floors, furniture, clothing, shoes. An example of a person who may contract Tinea Unguiem is a hotel washing-up worker who constantly has his/her hands in shared or contaminated water. Varying degrees of this condition can appear: white patches on the nail plate that can be scraped off; yellow streaks in the nail plate from the free edge to the matrix; disease invading deeper layers, the nail plate layers peel off to reveal a diseased nail bed. Also, discolouration or red rings may occur in patches on the skin. In more severe infections the whole nail may be shed.
The condition is highly contagious medical treatment is necessary.
This is a bacterial infection of the skin surrounding the nail. It may occur when the skin is broken, e.g. with hangnails, when the area leaves itself open to infection and various bacteria can enter the wound. Housewives, nurses, cooks, bar staff and bottle washers are examples of people who may be prone to develop this infection. The tissue surrounding the nail appears sore, red, inflamed, contains pus and the cuticle may lift away from the nail plate. If the condition is chronic over several months, the paronychia may lead to other nail dystrophies. Medical treatment should be sought.
Severe Nail Separation
Onycholysis is the name given to the gradual separation of the nail plate from the nail bed, whereby the nail loosens without coming away completely. It may be caused by internal disorders, psoriasis, eczema, infection, certain drugs e.g. antibiotics and cough treatments, or rough treatment of the nails, e.g. cleaning too far down the nail under the free edge. Likewise, toenails may also be affected, often when the large toenail has suffered damage from the prolonged wear of tight shoes or from being repeatedly ‘pounded’ in running shoes. As the nail plate lifts up from the nail bed, the space may attract debris and moisture, possibly causing a bacterial infection to occur. Medical advice may be sought and shortening the nail is advisable.
This is an inflammation of the skin that is thought to be of nervous origin, although external sensitisers can cause an outbreak. It may sometimes be hereditary and certain people seem to be pre-disposed to this condition. The skin becomes red and inflamed, followed by pustules and scaly patches and in very bad cases the skin ruptures and the area begins to weep. There may be intense itching and burning. In the nails, pitting of the nail plate occurs and furrows are present.
In mild cases calamine may be applied to the area, but as the condition develops, zinc lotion and bandaging is needed and a doctor may prescribe drugs.
This is a non-contagious disorder, thought to be hereditary or possibly linked to a nervous disposition and is found to be a recurring complaint. It can affect the whole body and is often seen on the limbs, particularly the elbows and knees. Its characteristics are pronounced red patches overlaid with silvery scales. It may affect the nail fold, under the free edge and can cause pitting of the nail plate. In mild cases, just pitting occurs. The next stage is when it causes separation of the nail from the nail bed and there is a noticeable discolouration in the area. The most severe form causes thickening of the nail plate, due to increased keritanisation in the nail bed, which at first becomes opaque and then turns yellowish brown in colour and the surface can become rough and silvery scales may appear at the nail fold and under the free edge.
Medical advice should be sought.
This appears as dark purple/blue spots on the nail plate caused by injury to the nail bed that produces bleeding. When the nail suffers a severe blow from a heavy object it may turn completely blue and usually falls off. It will be replaced by a new nail in due course, unless the matrix has been damaged. Generally, the new nail will grow underneath for a few months until such time that the old one lifts away of its own accord. The new nail may only be less than half way up the nail bed at this point so care should be taken to keep it clean. It may feel quite tender until the nail grows up to the free edge.
Severely Bitten or Damaged Nails
Onychophagy is the technical term for bitten nails and in some cases the cuticle around the nail. Nail biting is a nervous habit that results in exposure of the hyponichium and can cause very weak or even deformed nails. If biting continues there is a risk of bacteria transfer from the nail or nail infection from mouth bacteria. Regular manicures with oil treatments to soften the cuticles will help but the best cure is to stop the nail biting, for which incentives such as solutions and enamels with a foul/bitter taste may help.
A very common condition where the nails split, become brittle and break. Longitudinal splits parallel to each other on one or more nails may be found. It is caused by neglect, careless filing, over-exposure to harsh detergents or over-use of nail cosmetics. A bout of illness can also leave the nails in a dry condition.
Harsh products should be avoided and gloves worn for household and garden use. Hand cream and regular professional manicures with hot oil treatments will help improve the nail condition.
Warts are usually caused by viral infection causing raised growth, which may be dark or the skin may be coloured. There are many types of warts, some rough and horny, others smooth and they can appear singular or in clusters. The viral types are highly contagious so GP treatment is necessary.
Beau’s Lines – also known as Corrugations, these are superficial ridges in the nails caused by uneven growth and may be the result of an illness. Buffing and regular manicures will help eliminate the problem.
Furrows – these are deep ridges in the nail possibly caused by a nutritional deficiency or problem. May also be caused by injury to the matrix or illness. The habit of constant rubbing of the cuticle can cause friction in the area of the matrix and cause a deep ridge which will continue up the nail plate until it reaches the free edge. Ceasing this habit will stop the furrows appearing.
Hangnails – these are caused when the cuticle tears or splits, possibly from the cuticle being too dry or as a result of pterygium. Ragged cuticles should be removed with cuticle nippers and moisturising treatments will help improve the condition.
Koilonychia – may be caused by a build-up of horny cells at the sides of the nail plate, under the nail wall or an abnormal growth originating in the matrix. The result gives a spoon shape to the nail. This may be a permanent or temporary condition dependent upon the cause – possibly an inherited abnormality, an overactive thyroid condition or a type of anaemia.
Leuconychia is a common condition also known as ‘white spots’. It is caused by injury to the base of the nail resulting in a tiny air pocket forming between the nail bed and nail plate. Injury to the nail should be avoided to prevent the spots recurring.
Onychatrophia is when the nail decreases in size and in some cases disappears completely. The nail will have lost its lustre and become opaque and ridged. It may be caused by a nervous disease or injury to the matrix. The nail should be treated gently and protected from harsh products such as detergents.
Onychauxis is a thickening of the nail plate with possible changing of colour. It may occur as a result of constant irritation like a badly fitting shoe, or internal disorders, neglect or infection. It is sometimes known as hypertrophy and can only be reduced by filing and buffing the nails.
Onychocryptosis, or ingrown nail, can affect the fingers or toes but is most common the big toe. The side of the nail plate grows into the flesh and can be caused by cutting or filing the nail too far down the sides, neglect of the nails or ill-fitting shoes. The affected nail may become infected and if so should be medically treated.
Onychogryphosis is an enlarged nail with exaggerated curve. It is caused by an over-production of the nail plates horny cells, leading to a curvature of the nail, often resembling a ram’s horn. It is more common in older people and is often seen on the toes. This should be treated by a chiropodist or surgically removed if it is causing pain.
Pterygium is when the cuticle becomes dry and thickens, sticking to the nail plate as it grows. To treat this condition it is necessary to soften the cuticle first by using an oil or paraffin wax treatment. It can then be pushed back gently and any lifted cuticle removed with nippers. Regular manicures will prevent recurrence.
We hope that the above guide provides you with beneficial information on nail diseases and disorders.