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  • Dr. Kaplan – Nail Disease


    Your nails can tell you a lot about your health. Nail diseases and warning signs of other health problems appear on the nails. You nails also reveal whether you are taking good care of them. Good nail care is important to help prevent many common nail problems.


    The skin around our nails and the tissue beneath them are susceptible to many diseases. Early diagnosis and proper treatment offer the best outcome. If allowed to progress, nail disease can be difficult to treat.Here are some signs to look for in your nails:


    • Melanoma
      Nail streaks are common in people of color. While many nail streaks are harmless, sometimes about 30-40% of melanomas that occur in people of color develop under a nail. Other people can get melanoma under a nail. It is usually characterized by dark streak or spot without any physical injury. When caught early, melanoma can be cured.


    • Skin cancer
      Many different types of skin cancer can form under or around a nail. If you see a growth under or around the nail, promptly seek medical advice.
    • Wart
      A growth on the skin surrounding a nail is often a wart. They are common on the hands and feet. When warts grow near or under a nail it will become difficult to use the affected finger or toe, and medical treatment is recommended.


    • Psoriatic nails
      Psoriasis is a skin condition that can affect the nails. Common signs are pits, ridges, and nail discoloration. The skin beneath the nail can turn reddish brown, and reddish lines may appear. The nails can separate from the nail bed, crumble, and split.These nail changes can occur in people with all types of psoriasis. Sometimes it can signal the first sign for psoriatic arthritis. Nail psoriasis affect one or two nails and be painful.


    • Mucinous cyst
      Appearing on the skin above the cuticle, the cysts can be painful and should be treated. Allowed to grow, this can damage or deform the nail.


    • Fungal nail infection
      When a nail thickens, discolors, splits, and lifts from the nail bed, it often indicatios a nail infection cause by a fungus. It can be cleared with an antifungal cream, lotion, gel, or lacquer, if caught early. Prescription antifungal medicines may come in pill or liquid form. Laser treatments also may be used.


    • Bacterial nail infection
      When these signs appear on the skin around the nail, it signals a nail infection caused by bacteria. Sometimes the nail develops a greenish color. Pus can accumulate in the skin around the nail. The infection occurs most often after the nail or surrounding skin is injured. It can be treated by draining the pus and prescribing an antibiotic.


    • Ingrown nail
      An ingrown nail causes the nail to curve downward into the skin. It is most common on the big toe. Ingrown nails usually are caused by not cutting the nail straight across, tight shoes, poor hygiene, injury, and even a genetic predisposition. An ingrown toenail can be painful and sometimes causes an infection.


    • Splinter hemorrhage
      If you see a fine red to reddish-brown vertical line that looks like a splinter under the nail, it means that a blood vessel beneath the nail has been injured. Some medicines and medical conditions can also cause this.


    • Injured nail
      Small white spots often mean a nail injury. These white spots are very common and do not require treatment. If however you suddenly see many white spots and you had not previously injured the nail, or if the spots do not grow out, it may be a sign of an infection or another medical condition, and should see a dermatologist.


    Most doctors tend to look at nails during a physical exam because sometimes changes to the nails are indications of a disease. The table below shows what changes in the nail color might mean:

    Liver disease
    Kidney disease
    Heart condition
    Lung disease

    White nails
    Half pink, half white nails
    Red nail bed
    Nails yellowing, thickening, growing slowly
    Pale nail bed
    Yellowish nails with slight blush at base


    All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology.