Fingernails are just another type of skin, but not all nails are created equal. The nails protect the nerve-rich fingertips and tips of the toes from injury. Nails are a substructure of the outer layer of the skin and are composed mainly of keratin, a type of protein. Nails grow at the rate of about 0.05 to 1.2 millimeters per week. The nail bed is the skin on the top of which the nail grows. Healthy nail beds are pink to dark pink, which show a rich blood supply.

Fair skinned people have pinkish nails, while other people have brown or black ones. The nails can reveal a lot about the body’s internal health. Healthy nails are often a sign of good health, while bad nails are often a tip off to more serious problems. A high protein diet can help your nails grow stronger and healthier.

Our bodies host a variety of microorganisms, some of which are beneficial to us. These microorganisms also include bacteria and fungi. Fungal infections are caused by microscopic plants that live on our skin and on the dead tissue of our hair and nails. The following list contains the more common nail irregularities, diseases and disorders.

The most nail infections are caused by dermatophytes. Although dermatophyte toenail infections are extremely common, fingernail infections occur as well. These range from a superficial whitening of the ends of the nails to deep involvement of the entire nail, which takes on a brown or black discoloration. Usually, there is associated infection of the nearby skin, in the form of athlete’s foot or infection of the fingers themselves. Since nail infections are generally painless, the main complaint of people with onychomycosis is cosmetic.

The aforementioned nail irregularities are among those I have been witness to during my years in the salon. There are others that only a trained dermatologist will be able to diagnose and treat. Some are contagious, and some are the result of injury or illness. Physicians will sometimes examine your fingernails because many diseases will appear as various changes in the nail plate. Any change in the nail plate could be cause for concern, whether it is a simple splinter hemorrhage that appears as a tiny black line in the nail plate, or a drastic change. Nail technicians are trained to beautify the hands/feet and are not allowed to diagnose nail diseases or to treat them in the salon.

Common Nail Problems

Brittle Nails

These often occur from iron deficiency, circulation problems and other problems of the body’s endocrine system.

Discoloration

Cigarettes, hair dyes and even tints sometimes discolor the nails.

Dry mails

Dry skin gets worse in winter or in colder-weather months and so does the condition of some nails. Some get brittle, which is why you have to be careful about soaking them in water with chlorine, soap or detergents. Rubber gloves and warm gloves worn outside in cold weather can help. White spots. Don’t believe what you hear. You probably don’t have a mineral or calcium deficiency. White spots usually develop because you’ve hit your nails against something.

Greenish Nails

Greenish nails are usually a result of a localized fangal infection. If you find greenish nails under your nail polish, consult your health care provider as there are treatments for this kind of fungal infection.

Common Nail Disorders

Nail disorders comprise about 10 percent of all skin conditions. Due to their location, nails take a lot of abuse. Most of us have closed fingers in doors, suffered from ingrown toenails, or endured minor nail or nail fold infections. Sometimes, toenail injuries result from poor fitting shoes or athletic activity. Although they might be unsightly for a while due to the nail’s slow growth rate, most minor nail injuries heal on their own. More serious injuries or disorders require professional treatment. Symptoms that could signal nail problems include color or shape changes, swelling of the skin around the nails, pain, the persistence of white or black lines, dents or ridges in the nail, and should be reported to a dermatologist.

Tips for Strong, Healthy Fingernails

To maintain healthy fingernails, avoid infections, and improve nail appearance, try the following tips:

  • Keep your nails clean and dry.
  • Avoid nail-biting or picking.
  • Apply moisturizer to your nails and cuticles every day. Creams with urea, phospholipids, or lactic acid can help prevent cracking.
  • File your nails in one direction and round the tip slightly, rather than filing to a point.
  • Don’t remove the cuticles or clean too deeply under your nails, which can lead to infection.
  • Avoid nail polish removers that contain acetone or formaldehyde.
  • Bring your own instruments if you get frequent manicures.
  • If you have artificial nails, check regularly for green discoloration (a sign of bacterial infection).
  • Eat a balanced diet and take vitamins containing biotin.

Finally, to maintain your healthy fingernails over time, ask your doctor to take a look at them during your next checkup.

Beauty nails

Sources: Cool Nurse, Seedsof Knowledge

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