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Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Are your nails perfectly healthy? Read on to learn about some of the common nail disorders that affect people.

Your nails are not just present for cosmetic purposes. They serve an important function of protecting the delicate tips of your fingers. Therefore, having healthy nails is not only aesthetic, but also beneficial for your hands as well. Nails are subjected to a lot of wear and tear on a daily basis. Daily activities such as washing clothes and utensils tend to strip away the protective cover of your nails. This leaves the delicate nails exposed to the elements.

Nail problems usually do not appear instantly. They build up over time before they are actually noticed by the individual. Although many disorders are due to external factors, some problems may be a result of internal conditions or as a side effect of illness. Here are some of the most commonly encountered nail problems.

Discoloured Nails

This is one of the most recognisable nail problems. At some point or the other, everyone experiences this disorder. 'Discoloured' is a term given to nails that have lost their original colour. These nails may turn yellow, blue, red, green, or purple. The discolouration may be present in only part of the nail or it may be seen in the entire nail.

Discolouration of nails can occur for a variety of reasons. The most common cause is poor blood circulation. This is synonymous with heart problems, hence, people with a heart condition will often display nail discolouration. Poor blood circulation is also related to trauma. This happens when blood gets trapped between the layers of the nail, for example if the nail is caught between drawers.

For nail discolouration caused due to trauma, the discolouration grows out along with the nail. In other cases, discolouration needs to be examined, and the underlying cause determined. If discolouration is a side effect of medication, your doctor may suggest withdrawal of the medicines for a while. Physically, discolouration may be covered up by applying nail polish or using artificial nails.

Eggshell Nails

In this condition, the nails become so fragile that even slight pressure exerted on them causes damage. The nails themselves are extremely thin and fragile, which gives them their name. As the nails grow, they tend to curve over the tip of the finger, rather than grow straight ahead. This makes them more susceptible to breakage.

Eggshell nails are usually caused by a combination of stress and poor diet. This deprives the nails of their necessary vitamins and minerals. In some cases, fragile nails may be caused due to prescribed medication, which affects the supply of nutrients to the nail. Eggshell nails are usually dealt with by trimming them on a regular basis. This keeps the nails short and prevents them from growing over the fingers. Simultaneously, a change in diet or medication will also be required. This is to bring the nails back to their original healthy state.

Ingrown Nails

This condition mostly affects toenails. Ingrown nails are those that grow into the sides of the skin surrounding the nail. Thus, the nail grows sideways instead of forwards. Ingrown nails are usually caused due to improper nail-cutting and filing techniques. It may also occur due to the usage of improper footwear, which presses the nail into the foot. A third cause is due to injury to the foot, around the nail region.

Most cases of ingrown nails involve the big toe on either foot. Other nails may also be affected but this is not as common. If an ingrown nail is not treated in the early stages, it leads to more problems later on. An untreated nail continues to grow deeper into the skin, causing intense pain and suffering. Treatment of this condition is by removing the ingrown nail. In the early stages, the ingrown nail may be removed by a pedicure at a beauty parlour. If the nail has grown too deep, then it can only be extracted through surgery.

Nail problems are very common and affect most people at some point in their life. If left untreated, most problems can have painful consequences. It is important to recognise the early signs of these problems so that you can seek the appropriate treatment options.

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