Unusual or abnormal changes in nails can result from minor issues, such as improper footwear, to severe medical conditions including diseases and infections.
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There are many different types of common nail disorders ranging from ingrown toenails to discoloration to crumbling nails. Some may indicate an underlying medical condition and require treatment for the disorder to subside. Other conditions may be the result of improper physical upkeep and can be resolved through simple measures, such as wearing proper footwear or home remedies that include keeping cuticles clean and cut. Nail disorders should always be addressed by an expert, like those at Adena Dermatology, to avoid further complications.
Nail Disorder Risk Factors
Factors that increase the likelihood of developing a nail disorder include:
- Wearing improper footwear – Certain shoes can damage toenails and lead to ingrown toenails.
- Prolonged trauma due to activity – Physical activities including hiking and skiing can result in nail plate separation or complete nail plate loss.
- Skin diseases – Psoriasis and alopecia areata can cause irregular pits in the surface of the nail, causing the nail to crumble or separate from the nail plate.
- Exposure to chemicals and dyes – Touching certain chemicals or solvents can stain or deteriorate nails, causing them to appear brittle and often discolored.
- Medications – Chemotherapy drugs and medications containing silver or gold can temporarily turn nails blue-grey or dark brown.
Aside from physical changes, nail deformities can indicate a serious health issue and should be addressed immediately to avoid further complications.
Symptoms of Nail Disorders
Sudden changes to the fingernails or toenails can indicate an undetected disease or disorder. The most common signs and symptoms of a nail disorder include:
- Thickening of the nails
- Brittle, crumbly, or ragged nails
- Nails that become distorted in shape
- Dull nails with no luster or shine
- Nails that become dark in color, caused by a buildup of debris
Nail Disorder Diagnosis and Treatment
Because there are so many conditions that can make nails appear damaged, a physical examination of your nails may not give doctors a proper diagnosis. Quite often, your doctor will order lab tests and nail samples to identify the presence of fungus or an infection that may be causing the deformity. If bacteria or fungus is identified, your doctor is likely to prescribe an oral medication that fights infection and bacteria. In addition, your doctor may conduct photodynamic therapy that applies light-activated agents to the nail or may use an electrical current to deliver topical antifungal medications into the nail.
For disorders that are caused by a medical condition, such as anemia or kidney failure, the physical symptoms of nail deformity may subside as soon as the condition is diagnosed and treated.
To reduce the likelihood of developing a nail disorder, keep your nails trimmed and clean.
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