In physiological conditions, the nails appear healthy, strong and shiny, they are slightly elastic and pink.
If, on the other hand, the nails begin to show discolouration, fragility or micro-fractures , it is possible that an alteration of the body’s metabolic functions is taking place.
As is well known, in fact, nails are an expression of a person’s state of health : the moment it is compromised, the nails send out the first alarm signals.
Why Do Nail Diseases Come?
The disorders that can affect the nails are many and varied in nature. The origin, in fact, can be traced back to:
- Food shortages ;
- Yeast , fungal or mold infections ;
- Metabolic pathologies of various entities;
- Systemic pathologies;
- Skin diseases .
In addition, bad lifestyle habits can also affect nail health.
Since in many cases the structural and chromatic alterations of the nails constitute the first sign of any underlying pathological conditions, it is essential not to underestimate the changes that occur in these skin appendages .
Therefore, as soon as you notice changes in the appearance and/or color of your nails – apparently for no reason – it is always a good idea to contact your doctor who will be able to provide the patient with all the necessary information.
Which Ones Are They
There are many pathologies and disturbances that can affect the nails, greatly altering their appearance , color and functionality .
In some cases, these are real nail diseases , while in other cases they are disorders and pathologies that affect different areas of the body, organs or tissues, the effects of which, however, also manifest themselves at the level of these skin appendages .
The main nail diseases and the main alterations that they can undergo will be briefly described below.
Anonychia is a nail disease characterized by the absence of lamina.
Anonychia could be congenital (rarer, linked to growth disorders) or acquired (linked to psoriasis ).
This manifestation could be accompanied by chromonychia (change in the natural color of the nail).
Even the intake of drugs and the metabolization of toxic substances could affect this alteration.
Micronychia is a nail disease that is characterized by the presence of an excessively small nail which, therefore, appears to be abnormal.
One of the possible causes of this disorder is inflammation of the nail matrix.
The presence of white spots on the nails – a phenomenon also known as ” leukonychia ” – is attributable to factors of various origins and nature, such as nutritional deficiencies , skin pathologies (such as, for example, vitiligo ) or other diseases ( cirrhosis liver disease , anemia , etc.).
Again, leukonychia can be due to infections caused by dermatophytes , molds or yeasts ; or to microtraumas or altered growth of the nail itself which leads to the creation of air bubbles between the keratinocytes .
Longitudinal Or Striated Melanonychia
In longitudinal (or striated ) melanonychia , the nails show an alteration of their natural colour, taking on a brownish tint due to the accumulation – in the nail plate – of melanin produced by melanocytes in higher than normal quantities.
Longitudinal melanonychia results from yeast or mold infections, or reflects Heller’s canaliform dystrophy (the nail plate is crossed by a depressed central canal that divides the nail into two symmetrical parts).
Melanonychia is the term used to describe the black-brown color that the nail takes on.
The triggering causes can be the intake of certain types of drugs or the traumas that form a hematoma .
In severe cases, melanonychia can indicate more serious underlying conditions, such as kidney disease or melanoma .
In onychocryptosis – better known as ” ingrown toenail ” – the nail bed appears to be too small to support the nail plate, which pushes itself deeper and deeper, creating inflammation and pain .
Onychodystrophy is a disease that primarily affects the nail of the thumb and big toe .
In this disease, the nails are prone to breaking and chipping : the transverse fissures may branch out in diagonal undulations.
The cause lies in the ineffective blood flow to the matrix, or in a nutritional deficiency.
Even after heart disease, if the pressure drops a lot and the right amount of blood no longer reaches the nails, this condition could occur.
Usually, however, aging is the main cause of onychodystrophy.
In truth, nail biting does not represent a real disorder, since this term indicates the habit of biting one’s nails .
However, the direct consequence of this disorder consists precisely in a modification of the nail structure.
This mania causes serious damage, as the nail bed, being uncovered, is not protected and becomes a perfect place for attack by bacteria , fungi and other pathogens.
Paronychia is an infection of the periungual tissue, i.e. the tissue surrounding the nails.
This infection can be caused by bacteria or fungi and occurs frequently in people who have a bad habit of biting their nails (onychophagia).
Onychogryphosis – commonly known as ” claw nail ” – is characterized by an increase in the thickness of the nail .
The latter thickens to such an extent that the patient is no longer able to cut it.
In addition, the nail continues to grow by curving more and more, taking on a claw shape.
It could be associated with age, but also with injuries caused by sports .
Onycholysis is the typical indicator of nail psoriasis .
It involves the detachment – partial or total – of the lamina from the nail bed; moreover, even the slats can lose grip and cause fractures .
However, onycholysis is not an exclusive feature of nail psoriasis: in fact, it can also occur as a result of taking certain drugs or as a result of repeated trauma (caused by sports or too tight shoes ) .
Onychomycosis is a nail infection caused by microorganisms called fungi , responsible for the fragility of the nail plate and its chromatic alteration.
Often, this condition is accompanied by pain and sometimes a bad smell .
It can occur on all nails, but the incidence is greater in those of the feet due to the higher percentage of humidity that is usually present in this area of the body.
Onychorrhexis is a typical disorder of the elderly , characterized by brittle nails with vertical micro-nicks, whose lamina becomes thinner with streaks and cuts .
Lamellina onychoschizia is a common disorder of women aged 20 to 40 , characterized by the splitting of the nail plate.
The more superficial layers of the lamina gradually flake off and show micro-fractures in the free margin.
It occurs only in the fingernails , usually in the winter months , in which there is a progressive dehydration of the nail plate.
Lamellina onychoschitia can also be caused by nail fragility due to excessive use of nail polish.
In pachyonychia , the germinal matrix tends to be overproliferative.
The nail plate thus becomes very thick: in general, it is a disorder linked to senescence and psoriasis.
Perionyxis is inflammation of the perionychium (soft tissue that surrounds the lamina) .
Perionyxis can also follow an infection with Candida , Staphylococcus , Herpes simplex , often preceded by inflammation.
“Sewing Thimble” Nails
The ” sewing thimble ” nails occur in the case of alopecia areata , a condition whereby the nails are characterized by a dull appearance, similar to the effect generated by an abrasion.
Watch Glass Nails
Watchglass fingernails ( curved fingernails) constitute a nail disorder associated with a pathological condition known as ” drumstick fingers ” or ” hippocratic fingers “.
This disorder is closely associated with more serious problems, such as disorders affecting the lungs , bronchi , cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal tract , thyroid gland and thymus gland .
Nail diseases that cause the formation of green spots generally depend on infections caused by bacteria belonging to the Pseudomonas genus .
Blue nails can be a consequence of taking certain drugs such as tetracyclines or chloroquines , or they can be an indication of the presence of respiratory or cardiac disorders , perhaps not yet diagnosed.
Xantonymia is a disorder affecting the surface of the nail, which presents widespread yellow spots or progressive yellowing .
It is generally a common problem of smokers .
However, even those suffering from psoriasis, those who use tetracyclines, those who suffer from hyperthyroidism and those who use too aggressive nail polishes and solvents could experience this disorder.
Nail Diseases: How To Cure Them
As has been analysed, nail diseases, as well as the pathologies that strongly alter their structure and color, are many and of various origins and nature.
For this reason, the treatment will strongly depend on the underlying cause of the disorder.
It is therefore necessary to contact competent doctors in the matter: the podiatrist or a specialist will then have to determine – in a strictly individual way – the most appropriate cure and treatments for the resolution of the nail pathology that afflicts each patient.