Individuals are likely to blame all nail changes to fungal infection when in fact nail disorders can be due to various causes. Fungal infections account for only around 50% of nail problems.
Many dermatological disorders as well as benign and malignant tumours may affect the nails. Exposure to exogenous substances and, less commonly, systemic disorders also can cause nail changes.
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Fungal infections of the nail are known as onychomycosis. It is mostly caused by dermatophytes, fungi which are present in the surroundings. Dermatophytes, along with other fungi are more inclined to invade dystrophic as opposed to intact nails, and nails of older people that have a slower growth rate.
Psoriasis is another ailment that affects the nails. The changes due to psoriasis might vary from mild onycholysis to complete dystrophy, but are constantly reversible. Lichen planus of the nail on the other hand leads to scarring and permanent change.
Tumours or lumps under or around the nails must be taken seriously as should any brownish black discolouration of the nail or of the surrounding skin. Clearly these can be due to a benign verruca or a lentigo changing the nail, but they can also be because of a malignant and possibly life threatening cause like melanoma.
Your physician will be able to tell the difference or might refer you to a professional. Nail changes can provide precious hints to a discerning physician regarding the disorders or chronic diseases affecting various organs that manifest themselves in the nails.
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Repeated exposure to severe chemicals like detergents or acetone might lead to brittle nails, probably the most typical nail problems encountered by women. Brittle nails split and break easily and fail to grow.
All nail problems are simple to treat early on and all might lead to permanent harm if treated late. Bear in mind that some changes like white spots or streaks on the surface of the nails therefore are typical and considered normal.