Your finger and toe nails might not be the first place your mind goes when it comes to your health, but there’s a lot they can tell you if you know what to look for. Many nail abnormalities are harmless, but that’s not always true—so it’s important to pay attention to what your nails may be trying to tell you.
Fungal infections are an incredibly common, but irritating condition that can spread to or begin in the toenails. Fungi are all around us, and some microscopic fungus even lives harmlessly on our skin. Fungal infections flourish in humid, dark places. A condition like athlete’s foot is an incredibly common form of fungal infection that can affect your toenails too. Besides causing irritation and itching on your feet and toes, athlete’s foot can get in the nailbed. While athlete’s foot is the most common fungal infection to cause nail abnormalities, it isn’t the only one. It also doesn’t only affect toenails. Athlete’s foot and other fungal infections can also spread to the hands and fingernails. If a fungal infection occurs, the nail can undergo a few different changes. Some people’s nails respond differently to fungal infection, but it’s always true that you’ll notice if you’re paying attention. Many times, a fungal infection will cause discoloration of the nail. Nails often develop white, yellow or brown spots or become fully discolored. A fungal infection can also cause a nail to lift up or fall off. Nails can splinter or crumble, thicken or thin so it’s important to note any changes at all. Treatment is not difficult for most fungal infections, and that’s especially true if you notice it early and get to a dermatologist as soon as possible.
Certain types of skin cancer can cause nail abnormalities, but since they can appear anywhere, most people don’t know to look at their nails for warning signs. Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer that often appears on the skin as mole-like lesions. Since melanoma is a fairly inconspicuous form of skin cancer, it can go undetected long enough for it to spread. It’s even harder to notice when it forms beneath your finger or toenail. Melanoma is the result of sun damage, and as a result it can appear anywhere on the body. It has shown up on fingernails and toenails alike, and it might not look like much at all. If you notice a band of darker skin around a fingernail or toenail, or a dark, vertical streak in a nail, it could be melanoma. Since some forms of trauma to the nail can also cause dark lines or streaks to form, melanoma of the nail can be dismissed as an injury. If you notice a change to your nails or skin that sounds like it could be melanoma, do not hesitate to find out. Treatment is highly successful when conducted early, and that early detection relies on your attentiveness.
There are other conditions out there that can cause nail abnormalities, so make sure you’re giving your nails some attention. Whether it’s a fungal infection, an injury, psoriasis or skin cancer, you’re going to need some advice on treatment. Fungal infections are usually treated with topical antifungals. Melanoma often requires a biopsy and then a removal of the cancerous cells. For other skin conditions that cause nail abnormalities, like the pitting with psoriasis, you’ll want to treat the underlying condition to reduce symptoms.
Your nails can tell you a lot about your health, but you need to pay attention. If you notice a change to your nails, call Northeast Dermatology Associates today, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
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