5 Common Nail Problems

Nails protect the tips of the toes from abnormal pressure or rubbing. A nail consists of the part you see and a growth plate which is beneath the surface. Both rest on the nail bed. Frequently, otherwise healthy feet develop nail problems. Ingrown toenails are a common aggravation. Improper trimming, tight shoes, or heredity can cause your nails to grow into the surrounding skin, causing pain and inflammation. Aging nails can get thin and brittle, often due to poor circulation, poor nutrition, or diabetes. They may crack, split, or allow the growth of a fungus infection.

A thickened nail can be caused by a fungus infection or an injury. The nail may become thick, yellowish, ridged, or brittle. It may be painful to wear shoes. In time, the nail may loosen and fall off. A foot specialist may treat nail problems with one or more of the following: recommending a change in shoe style, trimming or removing the nails, medication, or surgery. For more information, consult your health care provider.

Because they’re right out there on the ends of our hands and feet, nails are subject to a lot of abuse. Some of it, like biting, is self-inflicted. But everyone has experienced broken or ripped nails from catching them on or in something, or cracking and splitting from overexposure to water and chemicals.

Minor nail problems usually heal as the nail grows out and require little treatment other than perhaps protecting the finger or toe if it is especially sensitive. In addition to allergic reactions to nail cosmetics and chemicals, there are a few other common problems that can occur with nails.

Abuse biting: Picking and peeling. When you bite your nails, you are interfering with their ability to protect your sensitive fingers. What’s more, you are inviting infection. Your nails can become infected because the surface is broken or removed. You can also be eating all kinds of nasty things that may be under your nails from things you have touched during the day. If you touch your dog, your car or your school books and then bite your nails, you are ingesting the same kinds of things you would if you licked these objects. Pretty disgusting, huh? In addition, bitten-down nails are not very attractive.

Fungal infections: PAMF’s doctors get a lot of questions about fungal nail infections. This link provides a very thorough discussion of the what’s, why’s and how’s of these infections.

Color changes: Nails may change in color as a result of injury, some medications, nutritional imbalances and skin conditions. If the color of your nails has changed dramatically, it is a good idea to check with your doctor.

Hangnails: The skin around your nails can become irritated and infected from biting or chewing, minor injuries, or exposure to water and chemicals. Hangnails can cause soreness around your nails, and if an infection develops you should see your doctor.

Ingrown nails: These can be painful. They are usually caused by improper trimming of the nail or by wearing shoes that are too tight. If you have an ingrown toenail, do not attempt to treat it by cutting or digging at it. Have it treated properly by your doctor.

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