Healthy nails don’t just happen; proper routine nail care is needed to avoid nail problems and injury.
Nails are mostly keratin, the same protein found in hair and skin. The root of the nail grows from a small pocket under the skin called the matrix. New cells produced in the matrix constantly force old cells out. These dead cells form the nail.
Other important parts of the nail include the cuticle, a very small bit of skin that covers and protects the root of the nail from germs and the lunula, the white half-moon shape you can sometimes see at the base of the nail.
Both fingernails and toenails take a long time to grow. It takes fingernails about six months to grow back if lost due to injury and toenails can take three times as long. To keep nails healthy, it is important to:
- Trim nails every two weeks with good quality clippers or scissors being careful to carefully round the sides of fingernails while trimming toenails straight across
- Keep nails clean and protect them from harsh cleaning chemicals by wearing gloves
- Moisturize nails and surrounding area with a good quality hand or foot moisturizer
Avoid biting nails since this can cause infection in the gums, and skin around nails. It can also damage teeth and lead to unsightly nails. Don’t push back or cut cuticles, apply acrylic nails or overdue nail polish remover use. All these things can danger nails and may lead to infection.
Injury to the nail can cause bruising, white spots or brown lines to appear. These conditions are caused by bleeding or damage to the nail or the blood vessels leading to the nail. The problem usually resolves without complication, but sometimes, the nail falls off or blood builds up under it causing pressure. If this happens, your dermatologist can make a small hole in the nail to relieve pressure.
Fingernails can also reveal important clues about the health of an individual. The nails can reveal signs of anemia, malnutrition, heart disease, diabetes, renal impairment, liver disease and other serious medical conditions.
Your dermatologist can help determine whether or not changes in your nails are significant. Maintaining your nails and following basic routine care measures will help ensure your nails stay healthy year round.