Nail diseases and nail disorders

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Diseases of the nail are as a direct result of bacteria, fungi, parasites or viruses attacking the nail or surrounding tissues. Nail disorders may be caused by illness, physical and chemical damage, by general neglect or by poor manicuring techniques. Nail disorders do not contra-indicate manicure or pedicure treatments. However, nail diseases do as they may cause cross-infection.

A therapist must be able to recognise diseases and disorders so that the correct treatment or advice may be given.

Common nail diseases Paronychia

Inflammation of the skin surrounding the nail. The tissues may be swollen and pus may be present which can develop into an abscess. It is a common condition on the fingers and is caused by bacterial or viral infection.

Initially, the cause may be due to prolonged immersion of the hands in water, poor manicure techniques, picking the cuticle or the nail wall separating from the nail. Infection with the herpes simplex virus can give rise to a whitlow, an abscess that forms around the nail.

Whitlow Nail



This is a term given to fungal infections of the nail, commonly called Ringworm. It attacks the nail bed and nail plate, and presents as white or yellow scaly deposits at the free edge, which may spread down to invade the nail walls or bed. The nails become thickened, brittle, opaque or discoloured. The nail plate will appear spongy and furrowed.

In its advanced stages, the nail plate may separate from the nail bed (a condition known as onycholysis (see below). There may also be accompanying dryness and skin scaling at the base of the fingers and on the palms.

Ringworm of the nail

Ringworm of the nail

Onychia Nail Disease Picture


This is a generic term used to describe any disease of the nail but more specifically refers to inflammation of the nail bed. In this condition the nail matrix appears red. There may be swelling, tenderness and pus formation. This could lead to the nail being shed. This condition may be caused by wearing false nails for too long or by harsh manicuring, chemical applications or by a variety of infections or physical damage.


This is separation or loosening of part or all of a nail from its bed. It may be due to disease, physical damage or may occur spontaneously without any apparent cause. It can occur if sharp instruments are used under the free edge. Penetration of the flesh line allows bacteria or other infection to enter the nail bed.

Nail disorders Leuconychia

This is a term given to white or colourless nails, or nails with white spots, streaks or bands. There may also be evidence of ridging. It may be caused as a result of injury to the matrix or the effects of disease. The white spots will usually disappear as the nail grows.



Nail Disorders Leconychia White Spot


This is the technical term for nail biting in which the free edge, nail plate and cuticle are bitten to leave the hyponychium exposed and the cuticle and surrounding skin ragged, inflamed and sore. Nail biting is usually a nervous or stress-induced habit.

Nail ridges/corrugations

Ridges in the nail may occur due to irregular formation of the nail or to physical/chemical injury of the nail matrix. Ridges may be vertical which are common in healthy nails due to uneven development of the nail tissue, poor manicuring techniques or the effects of harsh chemicals. Ridges may also be horizontal and can be indicative of abnormal nail growth, a symptom of body malfunction or disease. Deep horizontal lines are often associated with illness.

Hang nail

A hang nail is a small strip of skin that hangs loosely at the side of the nail, or a small portion of the nail itself splitting away. A hang nail may develop due to dry, torn or split cuticles. Common causes are hands being immersed in water for long periods, cutting the nails too close, digging the cuticles, improper filing or the effects of detergents and other chemicals.


This is a term given to an ingrown fingernail or toe nail. The first signs are inflammation, followed by tenderness, swelling and pain. Infection may aggravate the condition. It is caused by ill-fitting shoes, cutting or filing nails too short or too close to the skin. It may also be due to a malformation of the nail when it was beginning to grow.


This is a condition where the cuticle becomes over-grown and excessive and grows forward. The cuticle at the base of the nail becomes dry and split and

Factors affecting the skin 49

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  • philipp eisenberg
    How to attack bacteria and fungi on the nail bed?
    2 years ago
  • tanja
    How to treat cuticle infection?
    2 years ago

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