Diseases Of The Nails
( Originally Published 1927 )
Diseases of the nails occupy an unusual position. Once nails are fully grown, there are but few ways in which they may be adversely influenced, and as a result, different causes bring about very similar changes. Therefore, in the diagnosis of diseases of the nails, great reliance is placed upon the simultaneous presence of the same disease upon other parts of the skin surface, and upon the results of microscopic examinations.
Diseases of the Nails Due to Disturbances of Nutrition.—Disturbances of nutrition may produce transverse depressions without change in the texture of the nail. Such abnormalities are often seen after severe illnesses, the depressions representing the part of the nail formed during this period. This defect is rather common after typhoid, and usually appears on the great toe, the thumb, and the index finger. The same causes also at times, produce splitting of the nails, white spots on the nails, spoon nails, and clubbing of the fingers.
White spots in the nails appear near the "moon" and gradually advance towards the end of the nail. They are supposed to be caused either by air between the layers of the nails or through failure of the cells of that part of the nail to properly harden.
Clubbing of the fingers, with increased curvature of the nails, is seen in many long-standing cases of diseases of the chest. When the chest condition is cured, the clubbing is apt to disappear.
Diseases of the Nails Caused by Germs.
A most frequent disease of the nails is the one caused by pus germs; it is known as a "run-around" (paronychia). In this condition the germs enter through a break in the skin at the side of the nail. They multiply there and form pus. When this affection reaches its height, the involved part is reddened, swollen, tender, and painful. The pus often escapes from the space between the nail and the overlying skin and, thus, the infection is pre-vented from extending to the front of the finger or upwards into the band. Where the infection has been of long standing, the skin overlying the nails may be thickened and appears as if partly separated from the nail.
Suggestions for Treatment of a "Runaround."—Housewives, and others engaged in similar work, should exercise great care in pre-venting dirt and soapy or greasy water from entering into the breaks about the nails. When this condition is fully developed a physician should be consulted.
The Common Diseases of the Skin with Manifestations on the Nails.—The nails are part of the skin structure and, as such, they become affected in certain skin diseases. The ringworm parasites are capable of attacking the nails and causing them to appear thick, rough, and without their natural transparency. Dry tetter (psoriasis) may cause pits in the nails, or scaly patches beneath the nails, or the whole nail may appear irregularly grooved, brittle, and without transparency, or be lifted up by the thick deposit of scales underneath.
The nails usually suffer when eczema affects the hands and fingers; the changes consisting of pittings or grooves, of shedding of the entire nail, or of a deposit of scales underneath.
Syphilitic changes in the nails may consist of a chancre of the nail fold or a thinning of the nails and their painless shedding. This disease may also cause a horseshoe-shaped ulcer to appear around the nail, and finally a loosening, blackening, and falling off of the nail.
Manicuring.—The cutting of the cuticle, if done with care, using clean instruments, is harm-less. Polishing of the nails with a buffer adds to their beauty and is not injurious. There are two kinds of nail polish in general use, powder and liquid. The powdered variety, which is hard and gritty, contains a form of, tin, but does not scratch the nail. No eruption about the nail has been re-ported as resulting from its use. Liquid nail polish appears harmless when in contact with only the nail; however, instances of a rash (eczema) on other parts have been reported when the polish on the nails has repeatedly come in contact with the skin of distant regions.
Those who have followed us in this necessarily limited exposition of the manifold afflictions, to which this marvelously constructed covering of the human frame is liable, will agree with the time-worn but true adage, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
If, by this means, suffering will be mitigated and, perhaps, prevented, the author will feel well rewarded for the care he has taken in formulating this little volume.