A nail disease or onychosis is a disease or deformity of the nail. Although the nail is a structure produced by the skin and is a skin appendage, nail diseases have a distinct classification as they have their own signs and symptoms which may relate to other medical conditions. Some nail conditions that show signs of infection or inflammation may require medical assistance.
Onychocryptosis, commonly known as “ingrown nails” (unguis incarnatus), can affect either the fingers or the toes. In this condition, the nail cuts into one or both sides of the nail bed, resulting in inflammation and possibly infection. The relative rarity of this condition in the fingers suggests that pressure from the ground or shoe against the toe is a prime factor.
The movements involved in walking or other physical disturbances can contribute to the problem. Mild onychocryptosis, particularly in the absence of infection, can be treated by trimming and rounding the nail. More advanced cases, which usually include infection, are treated by surgically excising the ingrowing portion of the nail down to its bony origin and thermally or chemically cauterizing the matrix, or ‘root’, to prevent recurrence. This surgery is called matrixectomy. The best results are achieved by cauterizing the matrix with phenol. The Vandenbos Procedure is a highly effective method that focuses on excision of excessive nail fold tissue without affecting the healthy nail and nail matrix. The Vandenbos procedure is showing high success rates in eliminating Onychocryptosis without altering the normal nail. Another, much less effective, treatment is excision of the matrix, sometimes called a ‘cold steel procedure’.
Onychodystrophy is a deformation of the nails that can result from cancer chemotherapy which includes bleomycin, hydroxyurea, or 5-fluorouracil. It can include discoloration of the nail, or dyschromia.
Onychogryposis, also called “ram’s-horn nail”, is a thickening and increase in curvature of the nail. It is usually the result of injury to the matrix. It may be partially hereditary and can also occur as a result of long-term neglect. It is most commonly seen in the great toe but may be seen in other toes as well as the fingernails. An affected nail has many grooves and ridges, is brownish in color, and grows more quickly on one side than on the other. The thick curved nail is difficult to cut, and often remains untrimmed, exacerbating the problem.