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Fingernails and Toenails: Facts and General Information

Disabled World: Revised/Updated: 2019/04/20

Synopsis: Information and facts on fingernails and toenails including nail fungus and nail color health indicators. Fingernails take 3 to 6 months to regrow completely, while toenails require around 12 to 18 months to grow back fully. Skin diseases such as psoriasis, eczema (dermatitis), lichen planus or lupus can affect the nails.

Main Document

Fingernails and toenails are made of a tough protective protein called keratin. This protein is also found in the hooves and horns of different animals. Fingernails and toenails consist primary of the nail plate, the nail matrix and the nail bed below it, and the grooves surrounding it.

Healthy nails should be a pink color - with the healthy nail plate being pink, and the nail white as it grows off the nail bed. Fingernail color and condition changes are rarely the first clue of serious illness. In most instances, people will show other signs, or symptoms of disease, before nail changes become evident.

Structure of Finger and Toenails

Labeled illustration of a human fingernail showing top and cutaway diagram views from Anatomy and Physiology, Connexions Web site. http://cnx.org/content/col11496/1.6
Labeled illustration of a human fingernail showing top and cutaway diagram views from Anatomy and Physiology, Connexions Web site. http://cnx.org/content/col11496/1.6

Nail Conditions

Major illness can cause a deep transverse groove to form across the nails. A change in fingernail color, thinning, thickening, brittleness, splitting, grooves, Mees' lines and nail ridges, small white spots, receded lunula, clubbing (convex), flatness, spooning (concave) can indicate illness in other areas of the body, nutrient deficiencies, drug reaction or poisoning, or merely local injury. Both Fingernails and toenails can also become thickened (onychogryposis), loosened (onycholysis), infected with fungus (onychomycosis) or degenerate (onychodystrophy)

Fingernail and Toenail Facts

Nails never stop growing and they must be cut from time to time, however, using nail trimming tools used by different people can transmit nail infections. Use standard hygiene and sanitation procedures to avoid this transmission, in some cases, gel and cream cuticle removers can be used instead of cuticle scissors.

See our Amazing Human Body article for more facts and trivia regarding finger and toenails.

Caring for Your Nails

Summary

To maintain healthy fingernails ask your doctor to take a look at them during your next checkup. Dermatologists are well-trained in deciphering between innocuous and serious nail conditions, as well as determining when a nail color or characteristic change requires further testing.

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