Fingernails and toenails, made up of layers of a hardened protein called keratin, grow from the base of the nail under your cuticle. As new cells grow, older cells are pushed out toward your toe or fingertips. Healthy fingernails are smooth, without pits or grooves. They’re uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration. However, nails are susceptible to disorders and infections.
Your fingernails and toenails can serve as indicators for the overall health of your body, providing important clues about disease, infection or other conditions that may exist. That’s why it’s important to consult a Riverchase provider if your nails don’t look right.
Sometimes fingernails and toenails develop harmless vertical ridges that run from the cuticle to the nail tip, which tends to become more prominent as we grow older. Fingernails and toenails can develop white lines or spots if they have been injured, but these spots eventually grow out and are not a cause for concern.
However, the following signs and symptoms are cause for concern:
- Discoloration of the entire nail or dark streaking underneath it
- Shape changes, such as curling
- Thickness, either unusual thinning or thickening of the nail
- Separation of the nail from surrounding skin
- Bleeding around the nails
- Redness, including swelling or pain around the nails
These symptoms could be an indication of bacterial, viral or fungal nail infections, ingrown nails (often the big toe), injuries to the nail bed or nail issues as a symptom of diseases.
What Causes It?
Ingrown nails can happen for many reasons. The most common causes include improper nail trimming or shoes that are too tight. Sometimes, the nail is just too big, particularly for a toe. Injuries, like stubbing your toe or having it stepped on, may result in an ingrown nail.
Nail infections (bacterial, fungal and viral) are often picked up from exposure to hot tubs, salons, contact lens solution, sinks and household sponges because bacteria and fungi thrive in warm, moist environments. The infection can be short-term or recurring. Severe infections may cause nail loss.
Nail bed injuries result from the nail being crushed, pinched or cut. Getting your hand or toes slammed in a door is, unfortunately, a common cause. This type of injury can be very painful and result in a pooling of blood (hematoma) under the nail. More severe injuries can result in cracking or tearing off pieces of the nail.
Disease can affect the health of your fingernails and toenails too. Not eating well, or not getting the right vitamins in your diet may also affect the health of nails. There are many health conditions that can cause nail disorders. Identifying a problem with your nails may be the first step to the discovery of a larger health problem. Diseases that can affect the nails include oxygen disorders, kidney and liver disease, thyroid diseases, psoriasis and skin cancers.
A Riverchase Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery provider can diagnose the source of your nail condition and then recommend the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options may include topical creams, oral medications, and in some cases, laser treatment or surgery. You may be referred to a specialist if your doctor suspects an underlying health condition like kidney or liver disease.
Nail bed injuries may require drainage of the hematoma to restore the nail. It normally takes 3-6 months for new nail tissue to grow out from the cuticle. For severe damage, surgery may be necessary to reconstruct the nail bed.