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April 15, 2014

Nail Problems and Diseases

Nails play an important role by protecting the delicate ends of our fingers and toes. Their condition can be affected by our diet, overall health and contact with various chemicals. When nails are healthy, they are smooth and free of spots and unusual shapes or colours. The appearance of small holes, ridges or discolouration on your nails may indicate a problem.

Basic nail care

Nails are made of hardened protein called “keratin” and grow at a rate of 2.5 mm per month on fingers and 1 mm on toes. Contrary to popular belief, eating gelatin or applying it to your nails will not make them grow any faster!

Nail care is actually pretty simple. In addition to eating well, you need to:

  • Keep them clean.
  • Protect them when doing household tasks or gardening.
  • Keep them well shaped by filing them with the grain of growth using a non-metal file.
  • Give them regular breaks from nail polish and nail polish remover.
  • Moisturize them often.

Brittle nails

Brittle nails – technically known as onychoschizia – is a condition involving thin, soft and splitting nails. More prevalent in women than in men, it is generally caused by repeated exposure to moisture, soap and detergents or to the regular use of nail polish.
If you have a problem with brittle nails, the basic nail care tips described above will generally help. You can also combine these practices with the use of specific products, such as protective coats, hardeners and nourishing or fortifying treatments.  But remember that brittle nails can also reflect the presence of a health issue, including a thyroid problem.

Fungal infections – onychomycosis

Onychomycosis is the medical term for a fungal infection of the nails. With this type of infection, nails become thicker, the edges start crumbling and the nail surface takes on a yellow or brownish tone. Fungal infections are more likely to occur in feet than in hands, since socks and shoes create a warm, moist environment, the perfect breeding ground for these microorganisms.
To prevent fungal infections:

  • Keep feet clean and dry.
  • Do not share nail clippers and files.
  • Always wear sandals when walking in public places (pools, showers, locker rooms).
  • Trim your toenails straight across to prevent nicks and cuts.
  • Choose proper fitting footwear made of material that lets skin breathe.

Since fungal infections can be painful, cause other problems and spread from toe to toe or to others, it is always better to seek treatment. There are no effective over-the-counter products available for this ailment. For effective treatment options, see a doctor or podiatrist, who will prescribe oral anti-fungal medicine or medicated nail polish.


Is it a bruise or subungual melanoma?

If you stub your toe, hit your finger or wear shoes that compress the tip of your feet, you may develop what is known as subungual hematoma – or bruising – characterized by the collection of blood underneath a nail. It starts as a red spot that quickly turns black. If the bleeding was fairly significant, the nail may also become loose and fall off. To avoid nail loss, the blood needs to be drained before it coagulates.
Subungual hematoma should not be confused with subungual melanoma, a type of skin cancer that develops underneath the nails and appears as a brown or black streak. If you have not experienced any injury or trauma to your toes or fingers and have the following signs, talk to your doctor as soon as possible:

  • Black or brown streaks that increase over time.
  • Bruise that does not heal or grow out with the nail.
  • Darkening skin around the nail.
  • Deformity of the nail.

 Abnormal colouring

 Nail discolouration is an indicator of a nail or health problem. Having nails with a pinkish hue means that all is well. However, nails that change colour may be associated with various issues, as follows:

  • Yellow: May indicate the presence of psoriasis, lung disease or a build-up of lymphatic fluid in tissues.
  • Blue: Can occur when taking certain antibiotics or other medications.
  • Green: May be due to an infection (pseudomonas).
  • Black: Could be a bruise, subungual melanoma or an infection (pseudomonas).

Pharmacy services

Uniprix sales locations offer a wide range of products to treat problems affecting fingernails and toenails. Ask your family pharmacist for advice and information!