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Fingernail Problems

Fingernail Problems

The most common and mild nail problems are caused due to the lack of proper care, cleanliness, and hygiene of the fingernails. This article lists out some common reasons behind fingernail problems.
Dhanya Joy
Last Updated: Mar 16, 2018
Nail manicure
Your fingernails say a lot about your general health. Stress, lifestyle, eating habits, and personal hygiene play an important role on the appearance of your finger and toenails. Keeping fingernails healthy is a task that everyone should invest some time in doing everyday.

Apart from the regular cutting and cleaning of fingernails, there are various other precautions that can be taken to prevent nail infections or other related problems. Before understanding the various factors involved in causing fingernail problems, we must first learn about the components of a fingernail.
Nail Anatomy
Nail Plate - It is the hard surface of the nail that is visible.

Nail Bed - It constitutes the soft tissue under the nail plate.

Lunula - It's the whitish area, in the shape of the half moon, present at the base of our thumbs.

Matrix - It is an important part of the nail as all the growth of the nail takes place here. It comprises nerves and blood vessels and is situated beneath the cuticle.

Cuticle - The skin that covers the nail bed is called cuticle.

Nail Fold - It's the skin that surrounds the nail from three sides, which helps in holding the nail in place.
Unhealthy Nails and General Health
Generally, the condition of your nails indicate your overall health. Given below are some common nail conditions, which could be a sign of a serious health issue.

Bluish/red discoloration under the nails - Heart-related problems, reaction to certain medication, Wilson's disease or pneumonia
Yellow nails - Diabetes, fungal infection, thyroid, lung disease, or psoriasis
White nails - Liver disease, anemia or jaundice
Dark lines beneath the nail - Melanoma
Pale nails - Anemia, congestive heart failure, liver disease or malnutrition
Nail Problems
Nail problems are caused due to various factors. Fungal and bacterial infection, lack of grooming, and general carelessness towards the health of fingernails are some of the main causes of fingernail problems. Given below are some of the common types of nail problems that an individual can face.
Onychia, in simple words, is the inflammation of the nail bed, matrix, and the nail fold. The swelling may appear red and may be accompanied by formation of pus in the swelling. This condition may cause the nail to get detached from the finger.
Onychocryptosis is most commonly known as ingrown nails. This takes place when the sharp edge of the nail gets pushed into the soft and delicate skin of the finger. The main causes of ingrown fingernails are nail biting, improper method of trimming nails, any form of nail injury, etc.
This nail infection affects the skin around the nail. It may be caused by bacteria or viruses. Excessive washing of hands, nail biting, or excessive pushing back of the cuticle are probable causes of this infection. Diabetics are prone to this kind of infection. The main symptoms of this condition are redness and pus around the nail, blisters, and discoloration of the nail.
This is not an infection, but a deformity. The fingernail has a curvaceous shape to it. The nails grown due to this deformity curve downwards, towards the matrix of the nail. Its causes are varied, ranging from cardiovascular ailments, intestinal problems, hepatitis, purgative abuse, hematological causes, chemical (phosphorous, mercury, arsenic, beryllium, etc.) poisoning, puberty, etc.
Spoon-shaped nails or Koilonychia, is a nail growth deformity. Due to this condition, the nail grows in a concave manner. It usually occurs in thin and soft nails due to old age; in people whose fingers are constantly in contact with oil, and also due to hereditary factors.
Pincer Nail
Nails that appear to have a pinched shape to them at their tip, are known as pincer nails. It is a deformity that is caused due to trauma to the nail. It is usually seen in toenails due to constant use of tight shoes, but there are cases where fingernails have also developed this deformity. Transverse overcurvature of the nails is the main characteristic of this nail condition. The causes for pincer nails can be osteoarthritis or even hereditary factors.
Micronychia and Macronychia
Having abnormally small fingernails is called micronychia. This condition could affect one or more fingernails and its cause is not clearly known. Macronychia is when the length of fingernail is abnormally broad. The causes of this conditon are chromosomal abnormalities, congenital factors, etc.
Anonychia and Onychatrophia
In simple terms, anonychia is the absence of one or more fingernail. It can be congenital defect or caused due to trauma. Shrinking, drying up, falling off as well as discoloration and distortion of the natural shape of the nail, is known as onychatrophia. Some of the main causes of this condition are internal disease, and injury or trauma to the nail matrix.
Beau's Lines
This condition of the fingernail is characterized by depressions in the nail plate, which are mostly horizontal. These depressions run parallel to the lunula and are caused due to trauma or illness, due to which there is a disturbance in the synthesis of keratin and flow of blood to the matrix. The depressions tend to disappear as the nail grows. The main causes for this are, a heavy object falling on the nail, congenital factors, exposure to severe cold, sports injuries and zinc deficiency, among many others.
This is a fingernail problem often characterized by discoloration of the nail accompanied by pigmented vertical lines on the nail. It can be caused due to trauma occurring to the nail bed or may be a symptom of melanoma.
This condition usually affects the skin; however, it also affects the nails. It is a non-contagious nail problem usually characterized by yellow nails that have a blotch of red (looks like a blood clot) in it, pitting in the nail, vertical lines, brittleness, loosening of the nail, etc. It is caused due to genetic and environmental factors.
Vertical ridges in the nail appear due to old age or rheumatoid arthritis in some cases. They may also appear if there has been any kind of injury to the nail. If the ridges are horizontal, they could be an indication of some health-related issue which should be checked up on immediately.
Onychorrhexis (brittle nails) is characterized by nails that break easily, peel or chip at the tip. There are many probable causes of this condition. Some of them are anemia, Raynaud's disease, hypothyroidism, malnutrition, tuberculosis, skin diseases like lichen planus, psoriasis, etc.
This fingernail problem is characterized by the advancement of the skin around the nails towards the inside of the nails. This condition needs immediate medical attention and treatment.
White Spots
This nail condition might be observed by most of us. The nails appear to have white discoloration or spots on the surface. This condition may occur on a single nail or multiple nails. The possible causes of this condition are nail injuries or deficiency of potassium.
The above mentioned problems may crop up suddenly or over period of time. Therefore, every individual must take care of their fingernails. The easiest ways to keep fingernails healthy is to drink sufficient amounts of water, eat healthy, exercise, keep the nails clean and moisturized.
Disclaimer: This article is purely for informative purpose, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.