Numerous nail diseases can affect the health, strength, and appearance of fingernails and toenails.
The following are some of the more common nail conditions, causes, symptoms, and how to treat them.
The following are diseases that commonly affect the nails:
Nail psoriasis can cause nail denting or crumbling.
People living with psoriasis may develop symptoms. It occurs when psoriasis affects the skin of the nail bed or near the nail beds.
Potential symptoms include:
- crumbling nails
- changes in color to yellow or brown
- a build-up of skin under the nails
- blood under the nails
- the nail separates from the bed
People should talk to their doctor if they live with psoriasis and notice symptoms on their fingernails. Treatments may include:
- strong corticosteroid cream
- tazarotene, to treat pitting and discoloration
- calcipotriol, to treat build-up under the nail
- injections of corticosteroids
- laser treatment
Brittle splitting nails
Brittle splitting nails, or onychoschizia, is a common issue that dermatologists see. The condition can cause brittle, soft, splitting, or thin nails.
Common causes of brittle nails are repeatedly wetting and drying the nails. Though less common, other causes may include iron deficiency or underlying illness.
The most common symptom is that the nails break easily. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology state people can often tell if the cause is internal, as the condition affects both fingernails and toenails. If there is an external cause, symptoms will typically only affect the fingernails.
The most common remedy is for people to use moisturizer, and keep the nails protected from chemicals and repeated exposure to water.
Onychogryphosis is a condition where the nail becomes overgrown and thick, often affecting the big toe. It can cause one portion of the nail to grow longer than the other part.
Potential causes of onychogryphosis include:
- circulation issues
When a person has onychogryphosis, the nail grows very thick. In other cases, a portion of the nail may grow larger than the other part. The growth can resemble a ram’s horn, so people often refer to it as Ram’s horn nails.
A person will likely need to see a podiatrist or dermatologist, to help cut the nail. They may be able to show the person how to do this at home. People may need several trips to the doctor to cut it back and let it regrow. The only permanent treatment is the removal of the nail bed.
An ingrown toenail can cause pain and swelling, and in some cases, they can become infected.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, genetics may play a role in the development of ingrown toenails. Also, there are other potential causes, including:
- not keeping nails trimmed
- wearing tight socks or shoes
- physical injury
Symptoms can include:
- swelling and tenderness
Treatments may include:
- soaking the nail in warm water 3 to 4 times each day
- wearing comfortable shoes
- keeping the foot dry
- taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain
Nail fungal infections
Nail fungal infections are a common condition that causes the nails to become thick, discolored, and easier to break. Nail fungus is more common in the toes than fingers.
Several different types of molds and fungus can affect nails. They grow when a crack or break traps fungi between the nail and the nail bed.
Sweat, athlete’s foot, and salon manicures and pedicures can put people at higher risk of nail fungal infections.
- thick nails
- discolored nails that are brown, yellow or white
- fragile or cracked nails
Fungus under the nails often is not painful.
Remedies typically involve the use of antifungal medication. People may need a prescription, or a doctor can fully remove the nail.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it can take more than a year for successful treatment.
Onycholysis is when the toe or fingernail painlessly separates from the nail bed. It typically occurs slowly over time and could result from an underlying health condition or injury.
The most common cause is from local injury to the nail. Other triggers include:
- excessive filing
- exposure to chemicals
- allergic contact dermatitis
- submersion in water
Psoriasis, fungal infections, and reactions to certain medications are also common causes.
The main symptom of onycholysis is the separation of the nail from the nail bed. This can result in discoloration of the nail, turning it green, yellow, or opaque. It can also cause additional skin tissue under the nail, nail pitting, nail thickening, or bending of the nail edges.
Management varies based on the exact cause of the onycholysis. Some potential treatments could include:
- treating psoriasis with oral or other medications
- treating iron deficiency
- oral antifungal treatments
Prevention is also important. Harvard Health Publishing recommend people take the following steps:
- keeping their nails trimmed
- using rubber gloves when submerging hands in water for long periods
- avoiding harsh chemicals
- treating underlying conditions
Paronychia is an infection that causes redness and swelling around the edges of a nail bed.
There are two types of paronychia: acute and chronic. Acute paronychia occurs when there is an infection due to direct or indirect trauma to the cuticle or nail fold. Chronic paronychia is often the result of allergens or irritants.
Acute paronychia symptoms can include:
- fever and gland pain in severe cases
- yellow pus
Chronic paronychia often starts on one nail and spreads to others. The nail folds may have the following symptoms:
- yellow or green pus
- lifting of the nail from the bed
Treatments vary based on the cause of the paronychia. For acute cases, the options may consist of:
- warm compresses
- topical antibiotics
- oral antibiotics
- surgical incision and drainage, in severe cases
To manage chronic paronychia, a doctor will typically treat the underlying cause of the inflammation. This can include avoiding allergens and irritants. Treatment can take several weeks to months.
People should talk to their doctor if they notice changes to their nails. A medical professional can diagnose the condition and recommend suitable treatment.
If someone undergoes treatment for a nail disease and there is no improvement, or new symptoms develop, they should seek medical advice.
Many diseases can affect the nails. Treatments typically involve preventing further nail damage and treating the underlying condition.