We generally consider nails as a part of our body that enhances the beauty of our fingers. Though fingernails and toenails are adorned with various beauty materials, such as nail polish and embellishments to give your hands and feet a pretty look, they play a key role in our lives.
Fingernails and toenails protect the soft tissues of your toes and fingers. Nails are made up of layers of a hardened protein called keratin – the same protein found in your hair and skin. Though neglected, your nails can give a clue to your overall health. Healthy nails are usually smooth and consistent in colour.
Discolouration or changes in the growth of your nails could be a warning sign that all is not well with the functioning of your lungs, heart, kidney, and liver. It could also be a sign that you are diabetic and anaemic. However, you need not worry too much about common white spots and vertical ridges on your nails.
Common Nail Problem
Fungal infections: The most common nail problem is fungal infections. Fungal infection of the nail, or onychomycosis, is often ignored because the infection can be present for years without causing any pain. These infections are predominant in toenails. This is because the toes often have to face different environments -- warm, hot, moist.
Onychomycosis is characterized by a slow and progressive change in a toenail's quality and colour. This could be ugly and embarrassing. It is an indication that there is a fungal infection brewing underneath the surface of the nail.
Bacterial infections: Next in line are bacterial infections. These infections are caused due to frequent exposure to water or moist conditions, injury, poor skin hygiene, nail biting or finger sucking.
Ingrown toenails: This is caused by poor or improper nail trimming, wearing tight shoes, digestive problems or poor stance.
Nail injuries: Injuries can cause splinter hemorrhages or vertical lines under the nails. Certain drugs and diseases too can cause splinter hemorrhages.
If you are diabetic and a senior citizen, chances are that you may be more prone to nail problems. In fact, nail problems make up about 10% of all dermatological conditions and affect a majority of senior citizens.
Tips for Keepting Nail Healthy
- 1. Do not neglect your nails. Always keep them clean and dry in order to prevent bacteria from colonizing under the nail. Prolonged contact with water can contribute to split fingernails. Wear cotton-lined rubber gloves while washing dishes, cleaning or using chemicals.
- 2. Nail trimming is important. Trim your fingernails and toenails straight across and then round it at the centre. This type of trimming will help the nails grow strong and prevent ingrown toenails.
- 3. Do not pull off hangnails. Instead, carefully clip off hangnails.
- 4. Always clean and trim your fingernails otherwise you may be harbouring dirt and germs that may cause infections.
- 5. Some people have very thick and tough nails. In such cases, soak your feet in warm salt water for five to 10 minutes. This will soften the nails, making them easier to trim in the way mentioned above.
- 6. It is better to sterilize nail cutter and other equipments before use if the tools are shared by other member of the family or by friends.
- 7. Always wear proper-fitting shoes. Avoid tight fitting shoes because this can cause ingrown toenails. Change your shoes on a regular basis. .
- 8. Avoid biting your nails. Biting nails as a habit, during stress or excitement, is common. Well, it is time to finish this habit once and for all because while biting your fingers, you may transfer infectious organisms between your fingers and mouth. Nail biting can also damage the skin around your fingers leading to infections.
- 9. It is not just your skin that needs moisturizing. Your nails too need be moisturized. Apply a suitable lotion to your nails, especially after removing nail polish. This is because nail polish removers have chemicals that dry the nails.
- 10. Always chose a well known salon while going in for procedures like manicure, pedicure, footbaths and foot massage. It is advisable to take your own tools for frequent manicures and pedicures.
- 11. Do not allow your beautician to cut or push back your cuticle. It may allow an infection to develop. And remember: Shave your lower legs after getting a pedicure, not before. If you nick yourself while shaving, a pedicure may put you at risk for infection.
- 12. In case you encounter itching or burning or any type of allergic reaction to a nail cosmetic, stop the procedure and consult your dermatologist.
- 13. Shoes, socks, or hosiery should be changed more than once daily.
As a final note, meet your dermatologist if you see:
- 1. Changes in nail colour, discoloration of the entire nail or dark patches and streaks under the nail.
- 2. Changes in nail shape, for example, curled nails.
- 3. Thinning or thickening of the nails.
- 4. Separation of the nail from the surrounding skin.
- 5. Bleeding around the nails.
- 6. Swelling or pain around the nails
 Clubbing - Clinical Methods - NCBI Bookshelf. 2015. Clubbing - Clinical Methods - NCBI Bookshelf. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK366/. [Accessed 24 September 2015].
 Nails - Clinical Methods - NCBI Bookshelf. 2015. Nails - Clinical Methods - NCBI Bookshelf. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK211/. [Accessed 24 September 2015].