Nail Care and Nail Disorders

Nails grow from folds under your skin. A protein named Keratin gives both hair and nails their hardness. Keratin is found in smaller amounts of the skin itself.

Nail Care:

Nail Disorders

A paronychia is an infection of the skin bordering a nail. The infection occurs in either the cuticle at the base of the nail, or the fold at the side of the nail. It seems to appear more in people whose hands spend a lot of time in water. Bacteria or fungi may cause the infection. Bacteria usually causes acute infections while fungi particularly Candida, is usually responsible for chronic infections. These infections tend to develop slowly and are less painful.

In acute paronychia, your cuticle or nail fold becomes red, swollen and quite painful. The swollen cuticle may lift away from the base of your nail, and by pressing on it you can release some of the pus that has built up. It will be painful, but if you squeeze it rather hard, the infection will be released and you will be free of the pain. When a blister of pus forms on the nail fold it is called a whitlow.

Chronic infections produce similar symptoms but are less painful. Often the skin around several nails will be affected. The cuticles become damaged and can no longer protect the nail roots. The result is deformed or discolored nails. On occasion the nails themselves are attacked by the fungi and become thick, white in color and gritty.

Wear rubber gloves with a dusting of talcum powder whenever your hands are immersed in water. If you think you have an acute bacterial infection, go to your physician right away before the infection gets worse. You may need to take a treatment of antibiotics to clear up the problem. If pus has accumulated, the doctor may puncture the blister to allow pus to drain and relieve pain. If the infection is chronic, your doctor may have to prescribe an antifungal cream to apply to the affected nails. After several months of treatment, swelling and redness usually lessen and any affected cuticles return to normal.

Discolored Nails
Nails usually become deformed or discolored either by injury or illness. Poorly fitted shoes causing a continuous pressure to the nail forming area beneath the cuticle can cause ingrown toenail or other conditions. A decrease in circulation due to arteriosclerosis can lead to thickening of the whole nail.

Disorders that can produce nail deformities:

Small white patches appearing in the nail could indicate a vitamin or mineral deficiency. The patches move out with the nail as it grows.

Ingrown Toenail

Sometimes the nail of the big toe curves under at the sides, hooks itself into the flesh and grows, causing severe pain. If you have an ingrown toenail, make sure you wear loose-fitting shoes, and keep the area clean. Cut the toenail straight across the top, cutting away as much as you can.

By taking a few simple steps, can keep nails clean and disease free. Following a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water each day makes a big difference in the appearance of nails.

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