Diseases of the Fingernail

Your nails can provide you with a lot of information about your general health.  Then, there are diseases of the fingernails that can occur independently and only affect the nail.  It is important to be able to recognize different nail diseases because prompt treatment is important to help ensure that the underlying problem is taken care of.

Paronychia

This is a type of infection that occurs in the fold of the nail.  This is a common condition that usually results from an injury to the nail.  The infection can be caused by bacteria, fungus, or a yeast.  Antibiotics or antifungal medications may be necessary to treat the infection.

Fungal Infection

When you hear about fungal infections of a nail, it is usually affecting a toenail.  However, fungus can also cause diseases of the fingernails.  The fungus will cause the nail to appear yellow and the keratin protein of the nail is slowly digested by the fungus causing the nail to crumble.  An antifungal medication is usually prescribed to treat the infection and it can take several months for the infection to clear completely.

Onychatrophia

This is a condition where the nail just wastes away.  This can occur as a result of a disease or an injury.  Disease that may cause this condition include psoriasis, a fungal nail infection, lichen planus, and bacterial nail infections.  This is one of the diseases of the fingernails that can cause nail shrinkage, nail detachment, pus formation, nail shape distortion, and discoloration.  This condition needs a consult from a dermatologist.  He or she can get you started on a course of treatment and help with the underlying disease, if there is one.

Nail Psoriasis 

Nail psoriasis is most commonly seen in those with psoriatic arthritis.  It is also possible to have psoriasis that only affects your nails.  This condition can cause the nails to become dry, pitted, and crumbly.  The nail can come away from the nail bed and the nail can become discolored.  You may notice red spots on the moon of the nail, or the nail can appear orange, brown, or red.  A dermatologist needs to be consulted to get guidance with the proper treatment.  This condition cannot be cured, but there are many treatment options, such as corticosteroids, antifungal medications, removing the nail surgically, or a topical solution known as calcipotriol.  It can take time before you start to notice a reduction in your symptoms.