Hair and nail disorders
Nails are produced by living skin cells in the fingers and toes. They are composed mostly of keratin, a hardened protein also found in the skin and hair.Nails grow from an area called the matrix that lies under the cuticle. As older cells grow out, replaced by newer ones, they are compacted and take on a flattened, hardened form. The average growth rate for nails is only 0.0039 of an inch each day, although individual rates depend on age, time of year, activity level and heredity. Nails grow faster on fingers than toes, and they also grow faster on your dominant hand. Women’s nails grow slower than men’s, except possibly during pregnancy and old age.Nail Problems
Nails take a lot of abuse due to their exposed location.
- About 10 percent of the conditions treated by dermatologists are nail problems.
- Nail problems usually increase throughout life and affect a high number of the elderly.
- Changes in the nails, such as discoloration or thickening, can signal health problems, including liver and kidney diseases, heart and lung conditions, anemia and diabetes.
- Fungal infections cause about half of all nail disorders. They are more common in toenails.
- Other common nail problems include white spots after an injury to the nails; vertical lines under the nails, caused by nail injury or certain drugs and diseases; bacterial infections, most often due to injury; and ingrown toenails, caused by improper nail trimming or tight shoes.
- Up to 50 percent of people with the skin disease psoriasis also have nail problems. These include tiny pits on the nails and nail discoloration, splitting and rippling.
- Keep nails clean and dry to prevent bacteria from collecting under the nail.
- Cut your fingernails and toenails straight across and rounded slightly in the center. This keeps your nails strong and helps avoid ingrown toenails.
- Tight shoes can cause ingrown toenails. Wear shoes that fit properly.
- If your toenails are thick and hard to cut, soak them in warm salt water for 10 minutes and apply an over-the-counter 10 percent urea cream before trimming them.
- Do not bite your fingernails. You can transfer infectious organisms between our fingers and mouth. Also nail biting can damage the skin around your fingers, allowing infections to enter.
- Avoid “digging out” ingrown toenails, especially if they are already infected and sore.
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