Fingernails are made of keratin, protein and sulfur. The nail bed is the skin underneath fingernail and it is a part of the nail matrix, which produces the nail plate. Eponychium (cuticle) is dead skin that surrounds the nail. Part of the nail that overlaps the base and sides of the nail is known as the nail fold. The nail groove is an area on either side of the nail, where skin of the finger meets the nail. Disorders of fingernails manifest in changes in the color, texture, growth and shape of fingernails. Fingernail disorders are usually caused by nutritional deficiencies, poor hygiene or specific conditions but may also indicate disorders in other areas of the body.
Fingernails are most commonly affected by fungal infection that results in onychomycosis. Onychomycosis can affect toenails and fingernails due to Dermatophytes, saprophytes or yeasts. Dermathophytes are fungi that infect hair skin and nails. Athlete’s foot and ringworm are caused by dermathophytes. Saprophytes are rarely responsible for onychomycosis. They commonly cause tissue infection but do not infect the skin. The leading cause of yeast infection in nails is Candida albicans but other species of fungi can be involved too. Onychomycosis is characterized by thickening, discoloration and disfigurement of the nails and nail plate separation.
Tinea unguium is a fungal infection of fingernails and toenails. It is caused by fungus Trichophyton rubum. This contagious fingernail disorder leads to nails discoloration and brittle, misshapen and crumbling nails. Nail fungus can be treated with anti-fungal medications.
Paronychia is an infection of the skin around the nail and can be caused by bacteria or fungi. The nail infection can start suddenly (acute paronychia) or gradually (chronic paronychia). This highly contagious fingernail disorder is common in people who bite their nails. Also, people whose hands are constantly wet are susceptible to paronychia. The symptoms include swelling and pain in skin around the affected nail as well as collection of pus underneath the nail.
Onychorrhexis represent brittle nails that split vertically, peel and have vertical edges. This fingernail disorder usually affects people whose hands are constantly in water and those who are frequently exposed to strong solvents.
It is a bacterial infection that occurs between the nail plate and the nail bed but may also occur between natural nail plate and artificial nail. This fingernail disorder causes greenish discoloration of the nail, which is caused by iron compound. Another symptom of pseudomonas is separation of the nail plate from the nail bed.
Psoriasis of the fingernails is featured by raw, scaly nails and surrounding skin. It can be sometimes mistaken for eczema because it appears similarly. The symptoms include pitted, dry and crumbling nails as well as nails separated from the nail bed.