Nailcare and hygiene

The presence of nails distinguishes humans (primates) from other mammals. Nails serve many purposes such as protection of fingers/toes from trauma or help in simple daily activities like picking up things, opening a bottle or scratching. Sometimes a change in nail colour or texture helps to identify various health issues such as psoriasis and malnutrition. Hence it is important to regularly keep check on the nail health as they serve as indicators of general wellness. The nails are made up of layers of Keratin (a protein). A few common disease conditions that affect the nails are fungal infections, brittle nails, white spots, loose skin and splits.

Constant exposure to harsh chemicals can cause your nails to turn brittle. These nails get easily chipped off and or get peeled between layers. Try to use hand gloves during cleaning or dishwashing.

Fungal infections are the most common issues that affect the nails. Anaerobic organisms or fungi grow in between and under the nails. The nails will look thick and discoloured when fungal infection is present. Check with a dermatologist if you doubt a fungal infection.

Leukonychia is a condition where white spots are seen on nails. The most common cause of this is injury to the base of the nail (the matrix). It is a harmless condition and mostly caused by minor injuries, such as nail biting or some trauma.

Nails splits occur due to frequent exposure of nails to water or continuous use of nail polishes. In order to prevent split nails use hand gloves while washing/cleaning and leave your nails without nail polish for a few days in between.

To keep the nails clean and hygienic, use a mild soap, warm water and nail cleaning brush. In order to keep the nails and surrounding skin moisturized use a good quality moisturizer regularly after washing. Always try to keep the nails dry and trimmed. It is advisable to trim and moisturize the nails after bath.

Ideally, a manicure/pedicure should be done every month to keep the nails healthy. You may either buy the kit and do it yourself or get it done by experts. If you are doing the treatment yourself, make sure you keep the instruments hygienic by washing with hot water to avoid infections. Dermatologists advise to stop the habit of biting nails as it will cause damage. At anytime if you develop pain or swelling around the nail, immediately consult a dermatologist.

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