Keeping our fingernails and toenails looking healthy and beautiful involves more than giving them a quick coat of nail varnish. Not only do healthy and beautiful nails add to our appearance, but they can also reveal clues to our overall health. While some nail disorders may develop as a result of nutritional deficiencies and are treated by adjusting our diet or with a nutritional supplement, many nail disorders may also indicate an underlying disease, such as diabetes, infection or skin disease.


Nails are made from layers of a protein called keratin. The nail plate is the visible part of the nail, which sits on top of the nail bed. Nails grow outward from the nail matrix, the site of the nail growth, tucked under the skin. The cuticle is a thin flap of tissue that lies over the base of the nail. However nails can sometimes become discoloured, ridged, thickened and infected. So what are some of the most common nail disorders?


Brittle and Weak Nails – Fingernails usually contain minerals, proteins and lipids that provide nails with resilience, allowing them to resist breakage. Some nutritional deficiencies such as iron or B-complex vitamins can lead to fragile or weakened nails. Correcting nutritional deficiencies may help improve the condition of nails, for example with topical preparations such as Revitanail and oral preparations such as Swisse Ultiboost Hair Skin and Nails and Blackmores Nails Hair and Skin. Severe deficiency requires medical attention.


White spots – The development of white spots may develop in as a result of injury. White spots that appear for no apparent reason may also indicate mineral deficiencies such as zinc.


Ridged Nails – Ridges running either the length or width of the nail plate can be caused by age-related changes, trauma to the nail matrix, obsessive attention the cuticles, or eczema. Treatment can involve hand and nail treatments such as QSilica Strengthening Hand and Nail Cream and Dr Lewinn’s Hand and Nail Cream.


Ingrown Nails – Ingrown nails can occur on the toenails and fingernails, but are most common on the big toe. Symptoms include swelling at the site and redness. Ingrown nails can be caused by improper toenail clipping, shoes that crowd the toes and injury to the nail. Treatment for ingrown nails includes soaking the nail in warm water and applying antiseptic cream.


Fungal Nails – Fungal nails are one of the most common nail disorders. Symptoms of a fungal infection include brittleness, discolouration, thickening and crumbling of the nail as well as debris under the nail itself. In some cases the nail plate can detach from the nail bed. Causes can include physical damage to the nail, a weakened immune system due to conditions such as diabetes and overexposure to water or detergents. The treatment for fingernail fungal infections can take up to six months and 18 months for toenails. Treatments involve antifungal topical creams or liquids such as Loceryl and Canesten Fungal Nail Set


Bacterial Nails – Bacterial infections typically takes hold in the fold of the skin at the nail base. Treatment involves antibiotic treatment. Without treatment, the infection can worsen to include inflammation and pus. Common causes include having constantly wet hands, severe nail biting and eczema around the fingernails.


Since nails can be the windows to our health, keeping our nails healthy and beautiful is important for our overall health. Always seek medical advice from a healthcare professional with any nail disorders to get prompt treatment.