A nail disorder is a condition caused by injury to the nail or disease or imbalance in the body. Most, if not all, of you have had some type of common nail disorder. When in doubt, please see your physician for the proper diagnosis. Distorted, discoloured or otherwise unsightly ‘abnormal’ fingernails and toenails are very common problems experienced by people of all ages in the community. Damage to the nail may be caused by an injury, fungal disease, or other skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. The nail unit is made up of several components which form, support, protect and frame the nail itself. These include the nail matrix, the nail plate, the cuticle, the nail bed and nail folds. The nail unit protects fingertips, enhances fine touch and is important as a cosmetic structure.
Types of Nail Disorders
Paronychia infections – of the nail fold can be caused by bacteria, fungi and some viruses. The proximal and lateral nail folds act as a barrier, or seal, between the nail plate and the surrounding tissue. If a tear or a break occurs in this seal, the bacterium can easily enter. this type of infection is characterized by pain, redness and swelling of the nail folds. If the bacteria has entered between the nail plate and the nail bed, it will cause the same discolorations and may also cause the nail plate to lift from the nail bed.
Pseudomonas bacterium – trapped between the nail plate and the nail bed.
A fungal or yeast infection which results in Onychomycosis, can invade through a tear in the proximal and lateral nail folds as well as the eponychium. This type of infection is characterized by onycholysis (nail plate separation) with evident debris under the nail plate. It normally appears white or yellowish in color, and may also change the texture and shape of the nail. The fungus digests the keratin protein of which the nail plate is comprised.
Leuconychia is evident as white lines or spots in the nail plate and may be caused by tiny bubbles of air that are trapped in the nail plate layers due to trauma. This condition may be hereditary and no treatment is required as the spots will grow out with the nail plate.
Koilonychia is usually caused through iron deficiency anemia. these nails show raised ridges and are thin and concave. Seek a physicians advice and treatment.
Melanonychia are vertical pigmented bands, often described as nail ‘moles’, which usually form in the nail matrix. Seek a physicians care should you suddenly see this change in the nail plate. It could signify a malignant melanoma or lesion. Dark streaks may be a normal occurrence in dark-skinned individuals, and are fairly common.
Onychophagy – Is the medical term for nails that have been bitten enough to become deformed. This condition can be greatly improved by regular manicures or artificial nails. It is not realistic to tell a nail biter to come back for artificial nails after they have grown a free edge. Artificial nails can help this person break the biting habit. There are also nail biting topically applied remedies available.
Leukonychia – Is a condition in which white spots appear on the nails. It is caused by air bubbles, a bruise or other injury to the nail.
Leukonchia can not be corrected but it will grow out.
Furrows – Also known as corrugations, are long ridges that run either lengthwise or across the nail. Some lengthwise ridges are normal in adults.
These ridges increase with age and can also be caused by psoriasis, poor circulation and frostbite. Ridges that run across the nail are caused by high fevers, pregnancy & measles.
Yellow nail syndrome: – Slow growing, excessively curved and thickened yellow nails which are associated with peripheral lymphoedema and exudative pleural effusions.
Paronychia is inflammation of the tissue around the finger nail, with pus accumulating between the cuticle and the nail matrix. The area may become swollen, red and tender.
Treatment and Diagnosis of Nail Disorders
Nail disorders diagnosis is by inspection. Early treatment is warm compresses or soaks and an antistaphylococcal antibiotic. Other treatment ptions include:
Eliminate potential food allergens, including dairy, wheat (gluten), corn, preservatives, and food additives. Your health care provider may want to test for food sensitivities.
Eat calcium rich foods, including beans, almonds, and dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and kale).
Eat antioxidant foods, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes), and vegetables (such as squash and bell peppers).
Avoid refined foods such as white breads, pastas, and sugar.
Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats, cold-water fish, tofu (soy) or beans for protein.
Green tea ( Camellia sinensis ) standardized extract, 250 – 500 mg daily, for inflammation and antibacterial or antifungal effects. You may also prepare teas from the leaf of this herb.
Cat’s claw ( Uncaria tomentosa ) standardized extract, 20 mg three times a day, for antibacterial or antifungal effects.