Fingernails and toenails
Fingernails and toenails are members of the integumentary system. Like skin and hair, fingernail cells are of the epidermal type. These cells are found in the nail follicle area at the base of the nail. Here, keratinocytes multiply (by cell mitosis). New cells push the older nail cells outward. As these cells drift away from the blood supply of the nail follicle, they die and harden, forming the visible nail. Fingernails grow at a rate of about 0.12 inches (3 millimeters) per month. Toenails grow more slowly. The purpose of fingernails is to provide a means of scratching and also assist in picking up small objects. The nail acts like a "back support" for the soft front part of the finger tips.
What is an ingrown toenail (or fingernail)?
The medical term for an ingrown nail is "paronychia." If the edges of the nails break the skin of the actual finger, an infection can develop. This may occur by itself or may be due to improper nail clipping or nail biting. Clipping the nail too short or biting the fingernail can introduce bacteria through damaged skin. The nail bed is designed to resist the constant movement of nails as they grow. If the nail bed edges are disrupted, this also can lead to an infection.
How is an ingrown toenail (or fingernail) treated?
In most cases, topical antibiotics are used. Warm, wet compresses can keep the area moist, making it easier for pus and debris to drain. In severe or persistent cases a medical provider can remove part or all of the nail. This often requires anesthetics (pain medicines) due to significant discomfort.
What are the ridges I see in my fingernails?
Bumps or ridges in the nail that are in the direction of the finger may be due to a damaged nail root.
Why are my nails dry, yellow and falling off?
These are classic signs of a nail fungal infection. These infections often require extended courses of antifungal medications.
Why does my doctor always look at my fingernails?
Fingernails can provide clues to your overall health. Times of illness or stress may lead to imperfections in the nail. Some illnesses (for example psoriasis) cause characteristic nail features.