Tuesday, 1 May 2012

What Are Your Nails Saying About Your Health?

Do your fingernails crack, split or become so soft that they move up and down like a sponge? If so, your nails may be affected with a condition known as onychoschizia. This is a pretty common condition that describes nails that are fragile, split, thin and/or soft.

THE NAIL TALE

Nails are made from a protein known as keratin, and their strength, growth rate and thickness are determined by genetics. Nails are part of a bigger picture that includes the:



  • Nail plate, which is what we see
  • Nail bed, which is what the nail sits upon
  • Nail folds, which are grooves in the skin where the nail plate sits
  • Cuticle, which is a thin layer of skin overlying the base of the nail
  • Matrix, which is the area of nail growth just under the skin at the base of the nail
Many simple nail problems affect either finger or toenails (sometimes both), while more significant health issues (lung disease, heart valve infection, skin disorders, etc.) have the potential to simultaneously affect the color, shape, thickness, appearance and health of both the finger and toenails.

While there are lots of reasons for nails that are soft, crack or split, the most common can usually be traced to one of these three reasons:

1). Repetitive and prolonged wetting and drying of the nails
2). Damage from chemicals such as detergents, cleaning fluids and nail polish remover
3). Trauma to the nails such as from biting, injuries, etc.

SAVE THE NAILS

Fortunately, the following strategies can help to reverse the damaging affects from these activities:
  • Wear cotton-lined rubber gloves when having prolonged exposure to wet conditions or exposure to cleaning products. 
  • Never peel or scrape nail polish off the nails.
  • Stop biting the nails or using them as tools, like picking teeth. 
  • Do not use metal instruments to push back the cuticles. Sometimes this action also scrapes the nail surface. Keep the nails short and shaped with rounded tips if you partake in activities that can traumatize the nails, such as certain sports, jobs, etc. 
  • Minimize the use of nail polish remover as it can dry out the nails and leave them more prone to cracking. 
Summing up, with the help of lifestyle changes (no more nail biting), your nail problem can often be helped. However, to nail down a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, please visit your physician.

 

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