It’s a fact that many of us don’t give our nails a second thought. Aside from keeping them clean and trimmed, we don’t spend too much time on them. There are some of us, of course, for whom nails are the perfect way to make a fashion statement. Yet for the majority, nails that are simply clean and healthy are all we want – and indeed, it’s something that we take for granted.
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A handy indicator of health
This might come as a surprise, but did you know that our nails can serve as a type of instrument to show our overall state of health? A lot of conditions that afflict the human body can show on our nails. According to some medical experts, nails can show the state of health of the lungs, liver and heart. For example, pale nails can be an indicator of anaemia, liver disease or heart issues. If nails have a yellowish tint, this can be an indicator of diabetes or thyroid disease. A blue tint on nails can signify heart or lung disease. Thin nails that resemble a spoon in shape owing to a dip can mean that there’s an iron deficiency.
Nail diseases and disorders
It’s true that diseases and disorders of the nails are not very common – yet they exist. Lack of knowledge about nail conditions can cause a lot of stress, particularly when someone finds themselves coping with one without any clue about what is going on. It’s good to be aware of the different types of nail diseases and nail disorders. Should you find yourself facing one, you will be ready to fight it!
Fungal or dermatological disorders
As we’ve mentioned, some nail conditions can signify a problem at another location in the body. Yet many nail disorders are the result of dermatological conditions or fungal infections. We usually seek help from a dermatologist when we begin to notice nail abnormalities. In rare cases, a change in the appearance of fingernails can be a sign of cancer. But such cases are quite rare, so there’s no need to panic! Always be alert and get timely help. That’s always the best course of action for any medical concerns we may have. It is not possible to diagnose any disease by the mere appearance of the nails. We must discuss concerns about our nails and health with a medical professional. The doctor can only diagnose a condition after a careful examination.
Diseases that affect nails
- Paronychia. the symptoms of this condition include pain, redness and swelling around the nail. Sometimes, yellow pus also appears. In extreme cases, a fever and glandular pain may occur. This disease can be acute or chronic. Acute paronychia happens as a result of injury. Chronic paronychia is sometimes caused by an allergy. Treatment usually includes medicines, topical and oral. In chronic cases, surgery might be necessary.
- Onychogryphosis. This nail disorder is also known as ‘Ram’s Horn Nail’ because of the thick growth of the nail. It often affects the big toe. It also seems to have a genetic cause, at least in some cases, because it often runs in families. Injury to the nail is another likely cause. It can also happen as a result of skin diseases like psoriasis or ichthyosis. A chiropodist can cut the nail to keep the overgrowth in control. Yet the removal of the nail is usually the only solution to this condition.
- Onycholysis. This is a condition in which the nail separates from the nail bed. It does not cause pain but can lead to damage to the nail and the nail bed too. There are a few possible causes, including submersion of water, contact with dermatitis, exposure to chemicals, harsh treatment of the nail (like overfilling), iron deficiency and fungal infection. Successful treatment depends on finding the cause. Treating dermatitis, if that is present, is a good start, as well as addressing the possible iron deficiency. It’s also crucial to protect the nail from any further damage.
- Onychoschizia. This is a fancy name for brittle nails. The most obvious symptom of this condition is thin nails which break all the time. It’s a very upsetting condition, even if it doesn’t sound very critical. Constant wetting and drying of the nails is the usual cause. It can also signify iron deficiency or some other illness. If it affects the fingernails as well as the toenails, the cause is usually internal. If the cause is internal, treating the underlying cause is advisable. If the cause is external, keeping the nails dry and moisturised is the best course.
- Ingrown Toenail: This is a painful condition that oftentimes causes redness, soreness and pus. With an ingrown nail, there’s a constant threat of infection. There are several probable causes, including genetics and injury to the toes. Tight footwear and failure to trim nails can predispose the feet to this condition. Treatment includes oral pain medication, foot baths and keeping the feet dry. Wearing comfortable footwear usually helps. Sometimes surgery is necessary to relieve this condition.
- Nail psoriasis. This is another distressing condition. It often affects psoriasis sufferers. It can cause the nails to crumble, dent and change colour. It can cause a buildup of skin or blood under the nails, causing the nails to separate from the nail bed. As with psoriasis of the skin, there is a range of treatments available. There are topical creams to treat the symptoms as well as steroid injections if a doctor recommends such an option. Nowadays, there are also laser treatments available. It’s important to work with a doctor who understands this condition. This is the only way to find a treatment that truly works.
- Fungal infection. There are several types of fungus that affect the feet. Fungal infections happen when fungus gets trapped in a crack between the nail and its bed. Symptoms of a fungal infection include the thickening of nails, which are often discoloured. Nails can be brittle and start to separate from the nail bed. This condition is usually painless, but it can be distressing for sure. Topical antifungal medication can treat this condition. Sometimes the best option is to remove the nail. It takes some time to clear up an infection like this.
As mentioned earlier, some people care a lot about the appearance and health of their nails. Others tend to spend very little time on them. Yet as we’ve seen, nails can be an indicator of one’s overall health. As mentioned earlier, we must pay attention to what our bodies are telling us. If we act on our concerns in time, we have a much bigger chance to address the problem before the symptoms get worse and treat it fully in no time.