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Barometers of Health


Toenails often serve as barometers of our health; they are diagnostic tools providing the initial signal of the presence or onset of systemic diseases. For example, the pitting of nails and increased nail thickness can be manifestations of psoriasis. Concavity—nails that are rounded inward instead of outward—can foretell iron deficiency. Some nail problems can be conservatively treated with topical or oral medications while others require partial or total removal of the nail. Any discolouration or infection on or about the nail should be evaluated by a podiatrist.


Fungal Nails


Fungal infection of the nail, or onychomycosis, is often ignored because the infection can be present for years without causing any pain. The disease is characterised by a progressive change in a toenail's quality and colour, which is often ugly and embarrassing.In reality, the condition is an infection underneath the surface of the nail caused by fungi. When the tiny organisms take hold, the nail often becomes darker in colour and foul smelling. Debris may collect beneath the nail plate, white marks frequently appear on the nail plate, and the infection is capable of spreading to other toenails, the skin, or even the fingernails. If ignored, the infection can spread and possibly impair one's ability to work or even walk. This happens because the resulting thicker nails are difficult to trim and make walking painful when wearing shoes. Onychomycosis can also be accompanied by a secondary bacterial or yeast infection in or about the nail plate.Because it is difficult to avoid contact with microscopic organisms like fungi, the toenails are especially vulnerable around damp areas where people are likely to be walking barefoot, such as swimming pools, locker rooms, and showers, for example. Injury to the nail bed may make it more susceptible to all types of infection, including fungal infection. Those who suffer from chronic diseases, such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immune-deficiency conditions, are especially prone to fungal nails. Other contributing factors may be a history of athlete's foot and excessive perspiration.



Onychophosis is a growth of the horny epithelium in the nail. This often causes a build up of "dead skin" under and around the nail.




Onychogryphosis (ram's horn nails) is a general thickening of the nail/nails. It can often occur as a result of injury to the matrix such as dropping a brick on a toe, long term neglect (especially elongated nails), or a number of repetitive knocks such as those that occur with continuous use of poor fitting shoe wear. In addition to increased thickness and curvature of then nail, it may also become discolored with a brown tinge and may grow more quickly of one side than the other. When nails get too thick to cut, you may need regular nail care from a podiatrist to reduce the thickness of the nails and to help trim them back as required




Onycholysis is the painless separation of the nail from the nail bed. Onycholysis can occur in response to illness, prolonged water exposure, skin diseases such as psoriasis, irritation from chemicals including alcohol, shellac, or nail beauty products, infections such as a tinea (onychomycosis), sunburn in photosensitive people, or the result of injury or repetitive trauma and irritation such as from tight shoes or high heels. In the event of all the nails being affected it can be a sign of iron deficiency or thyroid over-activity. It is also a complication of chemotherapy. Onycholysis should always be tended to as the loose portion of the nail can become a hive of activity for fungal, bacterial or yeast infections which will inhibit the nail from reattaching.



Changes in shape and texture


  • Clubbing, or nails that curve down excessively around the fingertips is often associated with oxygen deprivation and lung, heart, or liver disease.

  • Spooning (kolionychia - see above) or nails that grow upwards is often associated with iron or B12 deficiency.

  • Pitting of the nails is associated with Psoriasis or trauma

  • Grooves along the nail are often associated with kidney disorders, aging, and iron deficiency.

  • Beading is often associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Ridges across the nail (Beau's lines) may indicate stress or a period of sickness where the nail has slowed or ceased growth for a short time.

  • Flatness can indicate a B12 vitamin deficiency or Raynaud's Disease.

  • Excessive ridges along the nail are often associated with arthritis.

  • Short small beds are often associated with heart disease, but are usually just genetic.




Athlete's Foot

Athlete's foot is a skin disease caused by a fungus, usually occurring between the toes.


The fungus most commonly attacks the feet because shoes create a warm, dark, and humid environment which encourages fungus growth.


The warmth and dampness of areas around swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms are also breeding grounds for fungi. Because the infection was common among athletes who used these facilities frequently, the term "athlete's foot" became popular.


Not all fungus conditions are athlete's foot. Other conditions, such as disturbances of the sweat mechanism, reaction to dyes or adhesives in shoes, eczema, and psoriasis, may mimic athlete's foot.




The signs of athlete's foot, singly or combined, are dry skin, itching, scaling, inflammation, and blisters. Blisters often lead to cracking of the skin. When blisters break, small raw areas of tissue are exposed, causing pain and swelling. Itching and burning may increase as the infection spreads.


Athlete's foot may spread to the soles of the feet and to the toenails. It can be spread to other parts of the body, notably the groin and underarms, by those who scratch the infection and then touch themselves elsewhere. The organisms causing athlete's foot may persist for long periods.


Consequently, the infection may be spread by contaminated bed sheets or clothing to other parts of the body


Corns And Callus


Corns and calluses are protective layers of compacted, dead skin cells. They are caused by repeated friction and pressure from skin rubbing against bony areas or against an irregularity in a shoe. Corns ordinarily form on the toes and calluses on the soles of the feet. The friction and pressure can burn or otherwise be painful and may be relieved by moleskin or padding on the affected areas. Never cut corns or calluses with any instrument, and never apply home remedies, except under a podiatrist’s instructions.

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