Nail Care and Nail Pathologies

Rebecca Parker runs a chiropodists in Worcester, England. In this article Rebecca writes about nail care and nail pathologies.

toenail diagram
toenail diagram

Nail Care

It is essential to look after toenails as we spend many hours of each day on our feet, and a painful or sore toenail can often lead to difficulty in getting around.

The nail is made up of different parts including the free edge, the nail bed, the nail plate, the eponychium, the hyponychium, the lanula, the sulcus and the matrix.

Non pathological nails are nails in good health. These nails can be filed or cut as suits the individual. These nails are often easy to manage by the patient in between seeing a podiatrist or chiropodist for treatment. It is very important to follow these guidelines in order to maintain a healthy nail. Firstly cut the nail straight across, avoiding cutting down the sides of the nail. Ensure that any sharp areas are adequately filed down.

There are various different pathologies that can effect the nail. Below is a list of just some of the most common nails podiatrists and chiropodists regularly see and treat.

  • Involuted nails
  • Onychomycotic nails
  • Onychauxic nails
  • Ingrowing toe nails

Additional conditions which affect the nail are:

  • Paronychia
  • Leukonychia
  • Koilonychia
  • Onychogryphosis

Involuted nails are nails that are positioned as such that the nail is pressing against the skin, but without breaking the skin. These nails are at risk of becoming ingrowing toe nails.

Onychomycotic nails are those nails that are thickened, and are fungally infected.  To determine whether there are any fungal spores present within the nail it is often necessary to send a sample of the nail away for microbiological tests.

Onuchauxic nails thickened nails are often caused by a fungal infection.

Ingrowing toe nails are those nails which are digging into the skin and that, as a result, cause breaking in the skin. When this occurs the toe may become infected and the patient may require a course of antibiotics. The in growing toenail may be treated conservatively or may require nail surgery as a long term management plan.

Paronychia is bacterial skin infection of the area of skin surrounding the nail. Most commonly caused by an ingrowing toe nail.

Leukonychia. These are areas of white discolouration in the nail. Often an indication of a fungal infection beginning.

Koilonychia. These are spoon shaped nails.

Onychogryphosis is a severe over growth of the nail which results in the nail having a ‘rams horn’ appearance and which needs to be significantly reduced by the podiatrist or chiropodist.

If you have a concern about a toenail then it is advisable to seek professional advice from your doctor or chiropodist. All chiropodists and podiatrists should be registered with the HPC (Health Professions Council).

Article by Rebecca Parker, Lilypad Podiatrists & Chiropodists Worcester.

References: Achilles Foot Health Centre.