Okay, I know. This is a very serious and kinda gross topic. But this is all very good info to know, especially if we happen to have a strange looking nail and we really don’t know what’s happening.
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 this page.
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 contagious.
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.
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.
Tinea Unguis, or ringworm of the nails, is characterized by nail thickening, deformity, and eventually results in nail plate loss.
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 the pain.
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.
Onychauxis is evidenced by over-thickening of the nail plate and may be the result of internal disorders — seek medical advice.
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 physicians diagnosis.
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 fairly common.
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.
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.
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.
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.