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Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Nails

These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

Finger Nails Bent [posted 1/7/99]
Question: Question: Recently, I have noticed that my finger nails tend to bend inward. It's more prominent on the middle finger nail. It has never happened before. I have always been healthy and don't have any health problems so far. I am about 27 years old. Could you please let me know why my nails would bend when they grow? I don't let them grow very long either.

Answer: Couple of correctable reasons - hypo/hyper thyroid, iron deficiency, psoriasis or some other systemic problem. Get them checked.

Fingernail Problem [posted 1/6/99]
Question:My fingernail is almost separating from my nail bed. The sides are slightly yellow and my finger feels swollen. Do you have any idea what it might be? and what can I do to stop it?

Answer: Probably an infection in the nail bed, could be bacterial or fungal. You'll need to see someone for further diagnosis.

Black line on Toe Nails [posted 1/5/99]
Question: I've noticed for the past several weeks both big toes have a black line down the center of each. This has been since approximately, August. This is making me nervous.

Answer: Probably, no big deal, but needs to be checked to exclude melanoma.

Concerns about Nail Ridges [posted 12/10/98]
Question: I am currently taking Ibuprofen, 600 mg. for bursitis in right shoulder. I had taken it previously for what was thought to be arthritis in left hip. I have noticed that my finger nails have ridges from the base in lines to the tip. I remember hearing previously that it represented a health condition. Can you tell me if I should be concerned with this?

Answer: Probably not, ridges are pretty common and usually don't mean anything if the rest of your health is ok.

Nail Bruise and Antibiotics [posted 7/27/98]
Question: My 15 year old daughter had a door slam on her index finger with a resulting nail bruise. She had that drained, but her finger is still swollen after 5 days. If she had an infection in that finger would Doxycycline be an appropriate antibiotic?

Answer: Yes, but it is probably not infected. It takes several days for the bacteria to replicate/divide sufficiently to cause a problem.

Splitting Thumb Nail [posted 7/24/98]
Question: I have a constantly splitting thumb nail. It splits down the center of the nail, and clipping, etc., never seems to correct it. It only happens on my left thumb. It splits down about 3/16 of an inch. Is this a deficiency of some vitamin? It keeps catching and I may end up ripping half of it of.

Answer: If it was a vitamin (or food) deficiency, it would occur on all your nails. This probably represents a previous history of trauma to the nail bed just below the area that is splitting. Probably nothing can be done, possibly a fungal infection which can be treated. Check with your doctor.

Pealing Fingernails
Question: My finger nails are soft and peal off in layers. Can I take something to make my nails harder and not peal?

Answer: First, ensure that you apply hand lotion or cream after each washing, even at work. Second, stop using any nail polish or nail cleaner. This will be necessary for about 3 months for new nails to completely grow out.

Finger Nails
Question: I just noticed this morning that my almost all of my finger nails have humps that are growing out from the cuticle and go across the nail. This is not normal for me. I know that everyone has some ridges that grow down the nail, but these humps go across. I read that finger nails can show some illness signs. Should I be worried? These humps are not ones that you have to look closely to see. They are easy to see and feel.

Answer: There are many diseases that are seen in the nails. The most common one in young women is iron deficient anemia. Without seeing the nails I really can’t say what it is. If you are feeling well I wouldn’t be too concerned. Try taking iron supplements and if they don’t change in 6-8 weeks have your physician look at them.

Finger Nails
Question: If the moons show on fingernails, does this mean you are generally more healthy than if they didn't show at all?

Answer: This means that your nails have good hardness and sheen, which is a sign of healthy nails.

Acrylic Nails
Question: I've worn acrylic nails for many years. Within the past few months, I am experiencing a problem with my nails, they are turning yellow and the texture seems to be flaky and soft. I actually went to a new person to do my nails, and she said that I have fungus. Who do I go too (what type of physician) or is there anything that I can do over the counter.

Answer: There are prescription antifungals which will usually kill the nail fungus. However, it will take a minimum of 3-4 months of treatment. Side effects include liver toxicity and blood tests will need to be done. There is no over the counter that will kill the fungus effectively.

Toenail Removal
Question: The whole of my big toe nail of my right foot is very loose and is coming off, leaving the sensitive area inside exposed. Will infection set in (especially when it's wet) and will a new toe nail grow completely to cover that part ? I got this while playing football several weeks ago and there was a black clot-like bruise seen on the nail.

Answer: There should be no infection and a new nail will occur about 95% of the time. It may be somewhat different in shape.

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