Common nail problems can be attributed to infection, skin diseases, or trauma, and they make up almost 10% of all dermatological cases. Changes in the nail usually emulate your state of health. Changes often include, but are not limited to, discoloration, changes in shape, thickening, pain, swelling of the skin around the nail, and bleeding. This can be a sign of liver or kidney diseases, heart or lung conditions, anemia, or diabetes.
Nail changes can be subtle. Some patients may find nail changes bothersome, while others do not notice any symptoms. The chance of acquiring nail problems typically increases throughout life, and affect a majority of patients that are senior citizens. This is because your nails begin to dry as you age, thus causing the nails to lose their natural oils, which is necessary to hold the nail layers together. Exposing your nails to harsh soaps, cleaning products, and rough work can speed up this process. First, your nails begin to become brittle at the edges, and eventually the layers split.
Almost half of all nail conditions are due to fungal infections. They are most common amongst toenails, since the toes are often confined to warm and moist environments. Melanomas can also exist under the nail, although it is rare. If you notice a dark-colored streak on the nail plate, nail discoloration that is not improving, or if the size of the streak increases over time, you should consult any local dermatologist immediately to schedule a visit for nail disease evaluations.
A few tips from the Mosaic Clinic on how to keep your nails healthy:
1. Make sure your nails are clean and dry. This prevents bacteria from collecting underneath the nail.
2. Cut your finger and toenails straight across, slightly rounded in the center, which keeps your nails strong and prevents ingrown nails.
3. Wear shoes that fit properly, and alternate with different shoes on a regular basis. Tight shoes can also create ingrown toenails.
4. Do not bite your nails. This can lead to the transferring of infectious organisms between your mouth and fingers. It can also cause damage to the skin around your fingers, allowing infections to occur.
5. Use creams, oils, and/or ointments on your nails after they've been wet. It's best to use something that can stay on for a while, and doesn't rub off right away, such as thick creams, but oil and ointments are the best option.
6. Try to clip and file your nails when they are wet. Doing this while your nails are dry can cause nails to split even worse.