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. For information on nail
problems not listed here, please refer to the links at the bottom of
Please be aware that Nail
Technicians are only licensed to beautify the hands, and not to diagnose
or treat nail diseases and disorders. Please seek the advice of
your physician or
dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and medical treatment.
Paronychia infections of the nail fold can
be caused by bacteria, fungi and some viruses. The proximal and
lateral nail folds act as a barrier, or seal, between the nail
plate and the surrounding tissue. If a tear or a break
occurs in this seal, the bacterium can easily enter. this
type of infection is characterized by pain, redness and swelling
of the nail folds. People who have their hands in water for
extended periods may develop this condition, and it is highly
Pseudomonas bacterial infection can occur between the
natural nail plate and the nail bed, and/or between an artificial
nail coating and the natural nail plate. Many people have
been led to believe that the classic 'green' discoloration of this
type of infection is some type of mold. In actuality, mold
is not a human pathogen. The discoloration is simply
a by-product of the infection and is caused primarily by iron
compounds. Pseudomonas thrive in moist places; it feeds off the
dead tissue and bacteria in the nail plate, while the moisture
levels allow it to grow. The after effects of this infection
will cause the nail plate to darken and soften underneath an
artificial coating. The darker the discoloration, the deeper
into the nail plate layers the bacteria has traveled. If the
bacteria has entered between the nail plate and the nail bed, it
will cause the same discolorations and may also cause the nail
plate to lift from the nail bed.
trapped between the nail
plate and the nail bed.
A fungal or yeast infection which
results in Onychomycosis, can invade through a tear in the proximal and lateral nail folds as well as
the eponychium. This type of infection is characterized by
onycholysis (nail plate separation) with evident debris under the nail
plate. It normally appears white or yellowish in color, and may also change the
texture and shape of the nail. The fungus digests the keratin
protein of which the nail plate is comprised. As the
infection progresses, organic debris accumulates under the nail
plate often discoloring it. Other infectious organisms may
be involved, and if left untreated, the nail plate may separate
from the nail bed and crumble off.
Fungal Infection of the nail plate.
Tinea Unguis, or ringworm of the
nails, is characterized by nail
thickening, deformity, and eventually results in nail plate loss.
of the nails.
Onychatrophia is an atrophy
or wasting away of the nail plate which causes it to lose its
luster, become smaller and sometimes shed entirely. Injury
or disease may account for this irregularity.
Onychogryposis are claw-type nails that are
characterized by a thickened nail plate and are often the result of
trauma. This type of nail plate will curve inward, pinching the
nail bed and sometimes require surgical intervention to relieve
Onychorrhexis are brittle nails which often split
vertically, peel and/or have vertical ridges. This irregularity
can be the result of heredity, the use of strong solvents in the
workplace or the home, including household cleaning solutions.
Although oil or paraffin treatments will re-hydrate the nail plate, one
may wish to confer with a physician to rule out disease.
Vertical Split in the nail plate.
Onychauxis is evidenced by over-thickening of the
nail plate and may be the result of internal disorders -- seek medical
Leuconychia is evident as white lines or spots in
the nail plate and may be caused by tiny bubbles of air that are trapped
in the nail plate layers due to trauma. This condition may be
hereditary and no treatment is required as the spots will grow out with
the nail plate.
Beau's Lines are nails that are characterized by
horizontal lines of darkened cells and linear depressions. This
disorder may be caused by trauma, illness, malnutrition or any major
metabolic condition, chemotherapy or other damaging event, and is
the result of any interruption in the protein formation of the
nail plate. Seek a
Koilonychia is usually caused through iron
deficiency anemia. these nails show raised ridges and are thin and
concave. Seek a physicians advice and treatment.
Melanonychia are vertical pigmented bands, often
described as nail 'moles', which usually form in the nail matrix.
Seek a physicians care should you suddenly see this change in the nail
plate. It could signify a malignant melanoma or lesion. Dark
streaks may be a normal occurrence in dark-skinned individuals, and are
Pterygium is the inward advance of skin over the
nail plate, usually the result of trauma to the matrix due to a surgical
procedure or by a deep cut to the nail plate. Pterygium results in
the loss of the nail plate due to the development of scar tissue.
Cortisone is used to prevent the advancement of scar tissue. Never
attempt to remove pterygium -instead, consult a physician for advice and
NOTE: The 'true cuticle' is
often referred to as Pterygium. If you have pterygium, it can only
be treated by a physician and should never be removed by a nail technician.
Pterygium Inversum Unguis is an acquired condition
characterized by a forward growth of
the hyponychium characterized by live tissue firmly attached to the
underside of the nail plate, which contains a blood supply and
nerves. Possible causes are systemic, hereditary, or from an
allergic reaction to acrylics or solvents. Never use force to
'push back' the advancing hyponychium -- it is an extremely painful
approach, and will result in a blood flow. Consult a physician for
diagnosis and treatment.
Pterygium Inversum Unguis
Psoriasis of the nails is characterized by raw,
scaly skin and is sometimes confused with eczema. When it attacks
the nail plate, it will leave it pitted, dry, and it will often
crumble. The plate may separate from the nail bed and may also
appear red, orange or brown, with red spots in the lunula. Do not
attempt salon treatments on a client with Nail Psoriasis.
Consult with a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment.
Psoriasis of the nails
MMA Damaged Nails: D. Tuggle,
owner of The Nail Academy, Jamaica, Queens, N.Y., submitted this
picture of nails damaged by MMA to the BeautyTech Web Site and
allowed it to be added to this page. MMA (methyl
methacrylate) is a liquid monomer used for acrylic nails by some
unscrupulous salons even though it is considered by and prohibited
by the FDA to be a poisonous and deleterious substance.
According to Dianna Bonn of Indiana, as of May 1, 1999, 23 states
have banned this chemical from being used in nail salons.
MMA nails are very rigid and do not bend or have the flexibility
to break. When MMA does finally break, it will break the
natural nail with it, causing severe nail damage.
Photo by D. Tuggle
Brittle Nails are characterized by a
vertical splitting or separation of the nail plate layers at the
distal (free) edge of the nail plate. In most cases, nail
splitting and vertical ridges are characteristic of the natural
aging process. This nail problem is also the result of
overexposure to water and chemical solvents such as household
cleaning solutions. As we age, the nail bed's natural flow of
oils and moisture is greatly reduced. This oil and moisture is
the cement that holds the nail plate layers together and gives the
plate its inherent flexibility. At the first signs of
splitting or peeling, re-hydrate the nail plate layers with a good
quality cuticle and nail oil that contains Jojoba and Vitamin E as
two of the botanical oils. Jojoba oil has a very tiny molecule
which can penetrate the nail plate surface, open up the layers and
draw the Vitamin E in after it. The molecular structure of
Vitamin E is too large to penetrate the nail plate layers or the
surface layer of the skin without the benefits of Jojoba oil.
Oil the nail plate and surrounding cuticle at least twice daily;
more if you have your hands in water a lot. Wear gloves
whenever working with household cleaning solutions, and
remember: water is considered the 'universal solvent', and is
indeed a 'chemical'.
Vertical Ridges are also characteristic of aging, although
are not limited to the aged or elderly. The nail plate grows
forward on the nail bed in a 'rail and groove' effect, much like a
train rides on its' tracks. As we age, the natural oil and
moisture levels decline in the nail plate, and this rail and groove
effect becomes apparent. Ridged nails will improve through
re-hydration of the nail plate with twice daily applications of a
good quality nail and cuticle oil containing Jojoba and Vitamin E.
A Hematoma is the result of trauma to the
nail plate. It can happen from simply trapping your finger or
toe in the car door to friction from improperly fitting or
'too-tight' shoes, to a sports related injury. A hammer does a
pretty good job at causing a hematoma as well! The nail bed
will bleed due to this trauma, and the blood is trapped between the
nail bed and the nail plate. A hematoma may also indicate a
fractured bone. Many people who participate in sports
activities experience hematoma because of the constant friction from
the shoes against the toenails. Hematoma may result in nail
plate separation and infection because the blood can attract fungi
and bacteria. If several days have passed and the blood clot
becomes painful, the nail plate may require removal so the nail bed
can be cleansed.
Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder involving nail and skeletal
deformities (among a host of other related anomalies) that occurs
in approximately 2.2 out of every 100,000 people. It is
transmitted as a simple autosomal dominant characteristic in the
ABO blood group (Autosomal dominant means that you only have to
inherit one copy of the gene to get it). It also means that there
is no such thing as an unaffected carrier, and NPS CAN NOT
skip a generation.
In cases where
there seems to be no previous family history of NPS, it is thought
to be caused by a sporadic gene mutation (which is probably
how it began in all families at one time or another). Once NPS is
in a family, the risk of transmitting the disorder from parent to
offspring is 50% for each pregnancy, regardless of the sex of the
child, with females being affected approximately 10% more often.
The severity of
nail dysplasia is extremely variable. Nails may be small and concave,
longitudinally grooved, abnormally split, pitted, softened, discolored, or
brittle. Toe nails are usually less affected than finger nails.
Click on the photo to go
to related Web Site.
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. For your nail health, seek
the diagnosis and recommendation of a knowledgeable dermatologist.
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