Seunga (Jasmine) Han, PharmD Candidate
What’s That on Your Nails?
In our previous articles about nails, we always reminded you to check your nails regularly and go seek professional help if you notice something that’s different about it. But when should you actually go seek additional help? When is it okay to ignore the change in colour, texture or shape? In today’s article, we are going to take a look at the different kinds of changes that require further assessment that could be indicative of a disease.
Also known as Acral lentiginous melanoma, is when there is a new or changing dark streak on your fingernail or toenail. While not every dark streak is indicative of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, it doesn’t hurt to seek help from a healthcare professional such as a dermatologist for a skin cancer check.
Nail Lifting Up
Onycholysis refers to a condition where your nail starts to lift up so that it’s no longer completely attached. You may notice a white discolouration in areas where the nail is lifted, and this could be due to multiple reasons such as:
- A fungal infection
- Injury from manicure
- Trauma from cleaning under your nail with a sharp object.
This should be promptly checked by a healthcare professional to make sure that you are properly treated and to ensure that your nails grow out normally.
Paronychia occurs when you have an infection in the hand or foot where the skin meets the fingernail or toenail. It’s often characterized by either redness and swelling around a nail or greenish black coloured nail. In both cases, antibiotics can be used to treat the infection, but they must be treated as soon as possible to prevent worsening of the infection.
If you notice you have dents in your nails that look like they were made by an ice pick, it could suggest that you have a disease that’s affecting your entire body such as:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Alopecia areata
In cases like this, you need to receive treatment for the underlying disease to prevent the situation from worsening.
Yellow Nail Syndrome
As the name suggests, this is when your nails turn yellow, thickens and stops growing. While this may be caused by wearing red nail polish without a base coat, it could also be due to an underlying medical condition such as lung disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
The medical term for deep grooves in the nail is beau lines, and it refers to lines that run the length of a nail. The good news is that these are common and usually nothing to worry about. Often times, if you notice deep grooves that run the width of your nail, it means that something slowed your nails from growing for a while. Whereas if you notice a gap, it means that something stopped your nails from growing for a while. This is called onychomadesis. Luckily, in either case, once you manage the underlying cause, nails start growing back normally.
Thick, Overgrown Nails
Ram’s horn nails or onychogryphosis happens when the nails thicken and overgrow. While it runs in the family for some, some may end up with it as a result of disease such as:
- Circulation problems
While it may not be harmful, individuals with these nails need to seek professional help to get them cut and treated.
Thin, Spoon-Shaped Nails
Koilonychia is a condition where you have thin fingernails that dip down in the middle and look like spoons. It’s commonly seen in individuals who are deficient in iron for reasons such as:
- Lack of proper nutrition
- Stomach or intestine problems
- Gluten sensitive (celiac disease)
- high altitude
In cases like this, appropriate diagnosis and treatment will improve the overall condition and nail health.
Onychotillomania refers to nails that look like a washboard from multiple grooves and ridges in the center of the nail. This often occurs when you have a habit of picking at or pushing your cuticles back. Luckily, this can be fixed once you break the habit and allow the nails to grow out.
The last change we’ll discuss today is clubbing, where your nails curve downwards, causing your nails to feel spongy when pressed on and fingertips to swell. While it can be harmless or something that runs in the family, it could also be a sign of disease in the lungs, heart, liver, stomach, or intestine. So, if you start to notice this type of curving, make sure to go see a healthcare professional.
The Bottom Line
These are just some major changes to watch out for when examining your nails, and is not an extensive list. Nonetheless, you may now understand the importance of regularly checking your nails for changes. While changes do not necessarily indicate diseases, it’s a good practice to make note of the changes and seek professional help. Based on your severity, a healthcare professional will be able to direct you accordingly to get the appropriate help you need.
As always, we hope you took away something valuable from this piece. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this article or others, feel free to reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook, or at firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback. We’d love to hear from you.
- American Academy of Dermatology: https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/nail-care/nail-changes-a-dermatologist-should-examine