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Common Nail Problems

Common causes of fingernail or toenail changes include trauma, aging, infection, and skin diseases. Diet is generally not responsible for abnormal nail changes, unless the person is suffering from severe malnutrition. Trauma can induce horizontal fingernail ridges (Beau lines), bleeding (hemorrhage) under the nail plate, and white streaks or spots (leukonychia). Splitting or layering of the nail plate (onychoschizia) is caused by having hands that are constantly wet, frequent use and removal of nail polish or artificial nails, and continuous mild trauma (eg, from habitual finger tapping). An ingrown toenail results from clipping the nail too short and wearing ill-fitting shoes. Vertical ridging and brittle nails are often a normal result of aging.

Toenail fungus and fingernail fungus can cause inflammation around the nail (paronychia) as well as lifting of the nail plate from the nail bed (onycholysis). Herpes infection can also cause painful swelling and blisters near the nail. Viral warts, caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), may cause a change in the shape of the nail or thickened skin growth under the nail (called periungual warts). Older individuals are often affected by toenail fungus infection (onychomycosis) associated with athlete's foot. Small, round depressions in the nail (nail pits) are seen with psoriasis or a condition that causes areas of hair loss, called alopecia areata. Psoriasis may also cause lifting, discoloration, and thickening of the nail.

Click any of pictures of nails below to learn more about what skin changes are common in fingernails and toenails.

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Nail Infection, Fungal (Onychomycosis) Onychomycosis, commonly known as a fungal nail infection, is infection of the fingernails or toenails by forms of fungi and yeast. Fungal nail infections account for nearly half of all nail disorders.
Beau's Lines Beau's lines are horizontal (transverse) depressions in the nail plate that run parallel to the shape of the white, moon-shaped portion of the nail bed (lunula) seen at the nail's origin. They result from a sudden…
Nail Lifting (Onycholysis) Nail lifting (onycholysis) is the spontaneous separation (detachment) of the fingernail or toenail from the nail bed at the end of the nail (distal) and/or on the sides of the nail (lateral). The appearance of nail…
Nail Splitting (Onychoschizia) Onychoschizia, commonly known as nail splitting but also known as onychoschisis or lamellar dystrophy, is a condition that causes horizontal splits within the nail plate. Nail splitting is often seen together…
Herpetic Whitlow Herpetic whitlow—also called digital herpes simplex, finger herpes, or hand herpes—is a painful viral infection occurring on the fingers or around the fingernails. Herpetic whitlow is caused by…
Nail Infection, Bacterial (Paronychia) Paronychia, commonly known as bacterial nail infection, is inflammation of the region of the finger or toe from which the nail plate originates, which is called the proximal nail fold (PNF). This inflammation may…