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Nail disease

Nail disease
Classification & external resources
Onychia without granuloma
ICD-10 L60.
ICD-9 703
DiseasesDB 23092
MedlinePlus 003247
eMedicine orthoped/421 

Nail diseases are distinct from diseases of the skin. Although nails are a skin appendage, they have their own signs and symptoms which may relate to other medical conditions. Nail conditions that show signs of infection or inflammation require medical assistance and cannot be treated at a beauty parlor. Deformity or disease of the nails may be referred to as onychosis.



  • Onychia is an inflammation of the matrix (surrounding tissue) of the nail with formation of pus and shedding of the nail. Onychia results from the introduction of microscopic pathogens through small wounds.
  • Onychocryptosis, commonly known as "ingrown nails" (unguis incarnatus), can affect either the fingers or the toes. In this condition, the nail cuts into one or both sides of the nail bed, resulting in inflammation and possibly infection. The relative rarity of this condition in the fingers suggests that pressure from the ground or shoe against the toe is a prime factor. The movements involved in walking or other physical disturbances can contribute to the problem. Mild onychocryptosis, particularly in the absence of infection, can be treated by trimming and rounding the nail. More advanced cases, which usually include infection, are treated by surgically excising the ingrowing portion of the nail down to its bony origin and thermally or chemically cauterizing the matrix, or 'root', to prevent recurrence. This surgery is called matrixectomy. The best results are achieved by cauterizing the matrix with phenol. Another, much less effective, treatment is excision of the matrix, sometimes called a 'cold steel procedure'.
  • Onychodystrophy is a deformation of the nails that can result from cancer chemotherapy which includes bleomycin, hydroxyurea, or 5-fluorouracil. It can include discoloration of the nail, or dyschromia.
  • Onychogryposis, also called "ram's-horn nail", is a thickening and increase in curvature of the nail. It is usually the result of injury to the matrix. It may be partially hereditary and can also occur as a result of long-term neglect. It is most commonly seen in the great toe but may be seen in other toes as well as the fingernails. An affected nail has many grooves and ridges, is brownish in color, and grows more quickly on one side than on the other. The thick curved nail is difficult to cut, and often remains untrimmed, exacerbating the problem.
  • Onycholysis is a loosening of the exposed portion of the nail from the nail bed, usually beginning at the free edge and continuing to the lunula. It is frequently associated with an internal disorder, trauma, infection, nail fungi, allergy to nail enhancement products, or side effects of drugs.
  • Onychomadesis is the separation and falling off of a nail from the nail bed. Common causes include localized infection, minor injury to the matrix bed, or severe systemic illness. It is sometimes a side effect of chemotherapy or x-ray treatments for cancer. A new nail plate will form once the cause of the disease is removed.
  • Onychomycosis, also known as tinea unguium, is a contagious infection of the nail caused by the same fungal organisms which cause ringworm of the skin (Trichophyton rubrum or T. mentagrophytes, rarely other trichophyton species or Epidermophyton floccosum [1]). It can result in discoloration, thickening, chalkiness, or crumbling of the nails and is often treated by powerful oral medications which, rarely, can cause severe side effects including liver failure. Mild onychomycosis sometimes responds to a combination of topical antifungal medication, sometimes applied as special medicinal nail lacquer, and periodic filing of the nail surface. For advanced onychomycosis, especially if more than one nail is infected, systemic medication (pills) is preferred. Home remedies are often used, although their effectiveness is disputed. In a study at the University of Rochester tea tree oil applied twice daily in conjunction with debridement was found to be an appropriate initial treatment strategy, equally effective to topical use of clotrimazole[2]. Another procedure is to apply two drops of distilled white vinegar to the nail base, or, additionally, nail plate and under the nail, two or three times daily for approximately six months or until the fungus is gone. This treatment is very effective,[citation needed] due to the vinegar's acidity, if followed consistently.


  • Onychophosis is a growth of horny epithelium in the nail.
  • Onychoptosis is the periodic shedding of one or more nails, in whole or part. This condition may follow certain diseases such as syphilis, or can result from fever, trauma, systemic upsets or adverse reaction to drugs.
  • Paronychia is a bacterial or fungal infection where the nail and skin meet.
Main article: Paronychia
  • Koilonychia is when the nail curves upwards (becomes spoon-shaped) due to an iron deficiency. The normal process of change is: brittle nails, straight nails, spoon-shaped nails.
  • Subungual hematoma occurs when trauma to the nail results in a collection of blood, or hematoma, under the nail. It may result from an acute injury or from repeated minor trauma such as running in undersized shoes. Acute subungual hematomas are quite painful, and are usually treated by releasing the blood by creating a small hole in the nail. Drilling and thermal cautery (melting) are common methods for creating the hole. Thermal cautery is not used on acrylic nails because they are flammable.

Nail changes and conditions associated with them

Nail inspection can give a great deal of information about the internal working of the body as well, and like tongue or iris inspection, has a long history of diagnostic use in traditional medical practices such as Chinese medicine.


  • Brittleness is associated with iron deficiency, thyroid problems,[3] impaired kidney function, circulation problems,[citation needed] and biotin deficiency.[citation needed]
  • Splitting and fraying are associated with psoriasis and deficiencies of folic acid, protein and Vitamin C.
  • Unusual thickness is associated with circulation problems.
  • Thinning nails and itchy skin are associated with lichen planus.[citation needed]

Shape and texture

  • Clubbing, or nails that curve down around the fingertips with nailbeds that bulge is associated with oxygen deprivation and lung, heart, or liver disease.
  • Spooning, or nails that grow upwards is associated with iron or B12 deficiency.
  • Flatness can indicate a B12 vitamin deficiency[citation needed] or Raynaud's disease.[citation needed]
  • Pitting of the nails is associated with Psoriasis.
  • Ridges across the nail indicate stress.
  • Beau's lines across the nail are associated with many serious conditions.
  • Ridges along the nail are associated with arthritis.[citation needed]
  • Grooves along the nail are associated with kidney disorders, aging, and iron deficiency.[citation needed]
  • Beading is associated with rheumatoid arthritis.[citation needed]
  • Nails that resemble hammered brass are associated with (or portend) hair loss.[citation needed]
  • Short small beds are associated with heart disease.[citation needed]

Coloration of the nail bed

  • Mee's lines are associated with arsenic or thallium poisoning, and renal failure.
  • White lines across the nail are associated with heart disease, liver disease, or a history of a recent high fever.[citation needed]
  • Opaque white nails with a dark band at the fingertip are associated with cancer, cirrhosis, congestive heart failure, diabetes and aging.[citation needed]
  • Paleness or whitening is associated with liver or kidney disease and anemia.[citation needed]
  • Yellowing of the nail bed is associated with chronic bronchitis, lymphatic problems, diabetes, and liver disorders.
  • Brown or copper nail beds are associated with arsenic or copper poisoning, and local fungal infection.
  • Grey nail beds are associated with arthritis, edema, malnutrition, post-operative effects, glaucoma and cardio-pulmonary disease.[citation needed]
  • Redness is associated with heart conditions.
  • Dark nails are associated with B12 deficiency.
  • Stains of the nail plate (not the nail bed) are associated with nail polish,[citation needed] smoking, and henna use.


  • Pink and white nails are associated with kidney disease.[citation needed]
  • Muehrcke's lines are white lines across the nail associated with hypoalbuminemia.
  • Red skin at the base of the nail is associated with connective tissue disorders.[citation needed]
  • Blue lunulae are associated with silver poisoning or lung disorder.[citation needed]
  • Blue nail beds are (much like blue skin) associated with poor oxygenation of the blood (asthma, emphysema, etc).[citation needed]
  • Small white patches are associated with zinc or calcium deficiency or malabsorption, parasites, or local injury.[citation needed]
  • Receded lunulae (fewer than 8) are associated with poor circulation,[citation needed] shallow breathing habits or thyroid mysfunction.[citation needed]
  • Large lunulae (more than 25% of the thumb nail) are associated with high blood pressure.

See also


  1. ^ Hall, John C. (2006). "25. Dermatologic mycology.", in John C. Hall: Sauer's Manual of Skin Diseases, 9th edition, Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 244=266. ISBN 0-7817-2947-5. 
  2. ^ Buck DS, Nidorf DM, Addino JG. "Comparison of two topical preparations for the treatment of onychomycosis: Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil and clotrimazole". PMID 8195735.
  3. ^

hair loss: Alopecia areata (Alopecia totalis, Alopecia universalis, Ophiasis) - Androgenic alopecia - Telogen effluvium - Traction alopecia - Lichen planopilaris - Trichorrhexis nodosa

other follicular disorders: Hypertrichosis (Hirsutism) - Acne vulgaris - Rosacea (Perioral dermatitis, Rhinophyma) - follicular cysts (Epidermoid cyst, Sebaceous cyst, Steatocystoma multiplex) - Pseudofolliculitis barbae - Hidradenitis suppurativa

sweat disorders: eccrine (Miliaria, Anhidrosis) - apocrine (Body odor, Chromhidrosis, Fox-Fordyce disease)
Otherpigmentation (Vitiligo, Melasma, Freckle, Café au lait spot, Lentigo/Liver spot) - Seborrheic keratosis - Acanthosis nigricans - Callus - Pyoderma gangrenosum - Bedsore - Keloid - Granuloma annulare - Necrobiosis lipoidica - Granuloma faciale - Lupus erythematosus - Morphea - Calcinosis cutis - Sclerodactyly - Ainhum - Livedoid vasculitis
see also congenital (Q80-Q84, 757)
  • Nail Tips FAQ
  This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Nail_disease". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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