Friday, February 25, 2011

Nail Health – Signs & Symptoms


The nails, like the skin, can tell us so much about the internal state of the body, including nutrient deficiencies, infection and much more. In Chinese medicine, the nails are controlled by the Liver...

Adult nails typically take 6 months to fully grow out – meaning a mark or line halfway up the nail may be due to trauma from as far as 3 months back.

Infections of the nails, can be both frustrating and slow to treat.

Bacterial and Fungal infections of the hand and toe nails van often be caused by improperly cleaned instruments during manicure and pedicure. Funagal infections of the toenails can also be a sign of candidiasis or yeast overgrowth in the body. Treatment can take years to treat and often require having the top of the nail filed down, in order to speed up treatment. Systemic or internal treatments are usually necessary to address the root and fully treat the infection. The nails will be thick and may start to yellow and have an "eaten away" appearance. The nails may also start to come away from the underlying skin.

"Clubbing of the nails" is a term used to describe swelling of the fingertips under the nail bed. It results in a loss of the normal angle between the nail and the nail bed. Overall, it is a sign of heart and or lung problems affecting blood flow to the fingertips. It can be a sign of a serious condition and should not be ignored.

Horizontal ridges, otherwise known as "Beau's lines" are a sign of temporary stoppage of nail growth. This can be due to significant physical or emotional stress (sickness/infection, an accident, grief due to loss). Multiple, less defined horizontal ridging could be a sign of zinc deficiency.

Vertical ridges can be a normal finding, which becomes more noticeable as we age. According to Chinese medicine, it could mean an excessive consumption of carbohydrates and/or a lack of protein, or a sign of a high salt diet.

White spots on the nails can be a normal sign of trauma during nail development. They will disappear as the nail grows out. White spots are also said to related to a possible zinc deficiency or a sign of heavy metal detox, which may also manifest as white bands. If an individual is undergoing heavy metal detoxification, they may also see an increase in these white bands. According to some, this is a sign that the organ are being effectively detoxified.

Spoon-shaped nails also called koilonychia, can be a sign of iron deficiency anemia, as can an overall paleness, which may also signify poor circulation.

Brittle/Weak Nails Nails that are brittle or weak and break easily are commonly seen in hypothyroid conditions, as well as Raynaud's. Low iron can also play a role here. Supplementing with biotin can help to support the health and tonify the strength of the nails. Similar to peeling nails (below) this can also be caused by excessive water exposure or immersion.

Peeling Nails Peeling away of the outer layers of the nail may not be indicative of overall health, as much as it is simply as sign of poor nail health. Chronic exposure to cold, dry air, chronic immersion in water or improperly dried finger and toenails can cause peeling. Nail treatments aimed at locking in moisture (applied like a nail polish) and increasing fatty acid intake in the diet, may help to remedy this problem. Also try wearing protective gloves if immersing your hands in water or a strong cleaning solutions for a long periods of time.

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