Nails serve many important functions. They help us pick up objects and support the tissues of the fingers and toes. Nails in good condition can be very attractive. Many women spend considerable time and money to keep their nails in good shape. Nails often reflect our general state of health as well. Fingernails grow faster than toenails. The average growth is 0.1mm each day. Nails grow more rapidly in the summer, and those on the dominant hand tend to grow faster. Men's nails grow faster than women's, except during pregnancy and old age.
What are some common nail disorders?
Nail disorders comprise 10 percent of all skin conditions, and include white spots, splinter hemorrhages, ingrown nails, fungal infections, bacterial infections, tumors, warts and psoriasis. Any abnormal pigmentation of the nails should be reported to a dermatologist.
I think I may have toenail fungus. What can I do?
Fungal infections make up 50% of nail disorders and are more commonly seen in toenails than fingernails because of the warm moist environment of shoes. They cause the end of the nail to separate from the nail bed. The ends of the nails become thickened and discolored. One or many nails may be affected. A dermatologist can determine whether you have fungus in your nails and discuss options for treatment.
How should I take care of my nails?
Many nail disorders result form poor nail care. Here are some tips for keeping nails healthy:
- Keep nails clean and dry.
- If toenails are thick and difficult to cut, soak them in warm water for 5-10 minutes, apply a 10% urea cream (available over the counter) and trim as usual.
- Nails should be cut straight across and rounded slightly at the tip for maximum strength. Use sharp nail scissors or clippers.
- Use a fine textured file to keep nails shaped and free of snags.
- Avoid biting fingernails.
- Avoid digging-out ingrown toenails, especially if they are already infected and sore.
Report any nail irregularities to your dermatologist. Nail changes, swelling and pain could signal a serious problem.