Your nails are composed of laminated layers of a protein called keratin, which is also found in your hair and skin.
Your nails grow from the area under your cuticle (matrix). As new cells grow, older cells become hard and compacted and are eventually pushed out toward your fingertips. Nails grow about 0.1 millimeter a day, which means that it takes a fingernail about four to six months to fully regenerate. Healthy nails are smooth, without ridges or grooves. They're uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration.
Your fingernails hold clues to your health. Learn to recognize the signs that might indicate a health issue. Some nail conditions are harmless. These include vertical ridges, which may become more pronounced as you age, and white lines or spots. Spots usually result from injury to the nail plate or nail bed. In time the white spots will grow out.
Other nail conditions can indicate disease. For example, yellow or green discoloration in your nails may result from a respiratory condition, such as chronic bronchitis, or from swelling of your hands (lymphedema). Indentations that run across your nails, called Beau's lines, appear when growth at the area under your cuticle is interrupted. This might occur because of an injury or severe illness, such as a heart attack.
If you have a nail problem that persists or is associated with other signs and symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out. The doctor's visit typically includes an examination of your nails along with other observations and tests to make a diagnosis.
If you rely on manicures to make your nails look good, keep a few things in mind. Don't have your cuticles removed ? it can lead to nail infection. Also, check to be sure that your nail technician properly sterilizes all tools used during your manicure. Using unsterilized tools may transmit viral infections, such as hepatitis B or warts.
Weak or brittle fingernails can be a challenge to toughen up. The following tips can help you protect them, making your nails less likely to split or break.
It's easy to neglect your nails. But a little basic nail care can go a long way to keeping your nails in healthy condition.
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