Nail Disease

As people have shifted towards a healthier life in the recent past, they look out for a healthy appearance too. When we talk about healthy appearance, even the most little things matter a lot. Good nails are essential to natural beauty. If they are healthy, they contribute towards a better appearance. Dry, bitten off, cracked nails detract from the beauty of your hands and feet. So, in order to enhance your appearance, it is important to have lustrous, healthy and shiny nails.

But why exactly does the condition of our nails deteriorate? Exposure to chemicals in detergents, washing powders and bleaches are very harmful for the health of our nails. Furthermore, our hands are soaked in water several times a day while indulging in chores, it is then accompanied by incomplete drying which makes the problem much worse.

Common Nail diseases

  • Brittle Nails:The nail plate is made up of dead keratin cells which are held together by a natural glue made of fats and water. Our nails become brittle or starts flaking when the cells separate due to the loss of fats and water.

What causes the loss of fats and water?

  • Quite a few of our household chores like mopping, washing and scrubbing involves activities that remove the natural fats from the nails, making them brittle.
  • Nail polish removers have a dehydrating effect on our nails. In case your nails are brittle, you must avoid removing your nail polish too often. Instead, if you wish to apply a new colour, paint it over the old one or skilfully patch up the chipped enamel.

Precautions to avoid brittle nails

  • Massage around the nail base with cream regularly. This will stimulate circulation around the nails as well as protect your skin from excessive dryness.
  • Wear rubber gloves while indulging in household chores.
  • Leukonychia or white patches on nails: A common belief is that white patches occur on our nails due to deficiency of calcium, which is not true. So how exactly are white patches on our nails formed?

Immature nail cells are soft and reflect light, thus they appear white. As the nail grows, these cells harden forming the normal cells. Damage to the growing portion of the nail due to any activity can interfere with the hardening of the cells of the nail. As a result, some cells retain their ability to reflect light and appear on the surface either as white spots or white streaks. The normal free edge of the nail also appears white because it is not attached to the nail bed and reflects light. Similarly, any nail problem which causes separation of the nail plate from the nail bed can cause the formation of whitish streaks on the nail.

Another common cause of such white patches is a fungal infection of the nail- This problem must be shown to the doctor for treatment.

  • Paronychia or red inflamed nail folds: Paronychia is inflammation of the nail folds which become swollen, painful and red. In severe types, pus may ooze from the nail folds. Too frequent and prolonged immersion of the hands in water is the primary cause of paronychia. Once the damage to the skin has occurred, infection by fungus and bacteria may supervene. It is commonly seen in housewives, kitchen helpers, bakers and dishwashers.

Prevention of paronychia

Paronychia can easily be prevented if you-

  • Keep your hands as dry as possible
  • Dry wet hands carefully
  • Use rubber gloves (especially if your hands have to be in contact with water for long periods of time)
  • Handle the nail-cuticle carefully.

 Once the problem has set in, seek expert help — you might require medication with antibiotics and antifungal agents.

  • Ingrown toenails: If the toenail is not cut properly, it penetrates into the nail-fold as it grows, causing redness, swelling and pain. Those of you who have had this problem would know that not only it is very painful, but physically incapacitating too. So, prevent ingrown toenails as much as possible.

The best way to avoid an in-growing toenail is to ensure that your toenails are cut properly. There are three cardinal rules to follow when you are trimming your toenails:

• Don’t cut them too short.

• Don’t ever cut down the side of the nail.

• Always follow the shape of the toe.

Ideally, the free edge of the nail should rest on the tip of the toe so that it is not possible for it to pierce the adjoining skin as it grows. If you cut the nail too short, it is easy to push the nail fold around it and encourage problems. Also if you cut down the side of the nail plate, as the nail grows, its sharp free edge penetrates the adjacent skin causing considerable pain. Once the pain starts, try to push the nail-fold away from the sharp edge of the skin. Do this regularly till the nail has grown out. If the nail fold is swollen and there is pus discharge, it is best to call your dermatologist. The doctor would initially try to manoeuvre the nail edge out. However, if this fails, then the nail might have to be cut and removed.

  • Fungal infection or onychomycosis:Fungus can infect any part of the body. Infection of the nails by fungus is called onychomycosis. Fungal infection causes thickening, breaking and discolouration of nails. When fungus infects the areas between your toes and the skin of your feet, its called athlete’s foot (tinea pedis).

Symptoms of fungal infection- You may have nail fungus if one or more of your nails are:

  • Thickened
  • Whitish to yellow-brown discoloured
  • Brittle, crumbly or ragged
  • Distorted in shape
  • A dark colour, caused by debris building up under your nail
  • Smelling slightly foul

Nail fungus can affect fingernails, but it’s more common in toenails.


Nail fungus can be prevented if you-

  • Use gloves while doing household chores
  • use a pencil to operate the dial
  • use a tin-opener to open tins
  • use gardening gloves
  • avoid contact with strong chemicals
  • use moisturisers liberally