Nail Disease Treatment

What is nail disease?

nails of fingers and toes

Nail disease, also known as onychosis, is a disease, disorder, or deformity of the nail. Some such conditions treated by dermatologists may be related to other medical issues such as diabetes, a poor immune system, skin conditions, or recent injury. Other nail conditions also include fungal and bacterial infections as well as ingrown nails.

What are the symptoms of nail disease?

baby and parent holding hands

The main symptoms of nail disease are: inflammation, infection, discolouration, changes in the shape or density of the nail, or a loosening and loss of the nail.

What are the causes and risk factors for nail disease?

The causes of nail disease are diverse and include infections, injuries, internal disease, drugs, tumours, congenital problems, and ageing. Factors such as hygiene, choice of footwear, or lifestyle choices may also contribute to the occurrence of nail disease.

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Did you know?

Nail psoriasis is common in approximately half of psoriasis patients. If it is left untreated, the consequences can be debilitating.¹

What are the possible complications of nail disease?

closeup of two people holding hands

It is advisable to seek treatment for nail infections or disorders as they are often contagious, but also because they may develop into a more serious condition. Fungal infections such as onychomycosis, if left untreated, may lead to serious infections if the immune system is compromised in any way (illness such as diabetes or medication). Undiagnosed and untreated ingrown nails may result in a deep soft tissue infection or even a bone infection. Fungal and bacterial infections must not be ignored.

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When should I see a specialist for nail disease?

Early detection is important to prevent further complications. You may wish to see a dermatologist if over-the-counter medication has not successfully treated your condition, or if the condition seems to be spreading to the surrounding skin. Accurate diagnosis and treatment will increase the chances of a quick recovery.

How should I prepare for my appointment?

Prepare for your appointment by compiling details of your medical history and a list of any medications, to help your dermatologist diagnose your nail condition. Reflect on the timeline of your condition and be ready to ask any questions you have concerning you diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

How do specialists diagnose nail disease?

Your dermatologist will carefully examine the nail and discuss your medical history and general health. Nail disease can often be linked to a poor immune system, diabetes, recent injuries, or other skin conditions such as psoriasis. Your dermatologist may also may request laboratory tests or take samples to confirm their diagnosis.

What treatments are available for nail disease?

Depending on your condition, your dermatologist will prescribe you with medication to effectively treat the infection or disorder, or perhaps perform a minimally invasive procedure. For example, you may need to have part of your nail removed with a local anaesthetic.

Dermatologists are also able to use a specialised laser to treat fungal infections. They also advise on lifestyle changes which may help in healing the nail disease and preventing a recurrence of the condition.

How do I maintain the health of my nails?

Here are a few tips to help prevent nail diseases and disorders:

  • Wash hands frequently, with soap and water.
  • Keep nails trimmed.
  • Clean nail trimming tools before use.
  • Avoid biting or chewing nails.
  • Avoid cutting cuticles.
  • Wear appropriate footwear that is clean and dry, and allows air to adequately circulate.
  • Wear footwear such as sandals or flip-flops in public showers or pools.
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[1] Tan ES, Chong WS, Tey HL. Nail psoriasis: a review. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2012 Dec;13(6) 375-388. doi:10.2165/11597000-000000000-00000.