Pathologies of Nails For Anatomy and Physiology Courses

Published on 2nd August 2021


Although you may be studying your anatomy and physiology course for a therapy that doesn't have any effect on nails, the subject is on the ITEC syllabus (Interantional Therapy Examination Council) so the subject must be studied, including pathologies.

Beau’s line

Transverse lines or grooves across the fingernails, or transverse depressions in the nail plate, caused by temporary disturbance of cell division where the nail develops.

Blue nail- cyanosis

Caused by a low level of oxygen circulating in the red blood cells.  Can be caused by problems in the lungs, heart, blood cells, or blood vessels.

Discoloured nails

Nails can appear white, yellow or green and result from different infections and conditions of the skin.

Dry/brittle nails

Dry/brittle nails are the result of too little moisture.  Nails can easily become cracked, chipped, split or peeled.

Flaking (onychoschizia)

Nails that are thin or brittle, or when the ends split or flake apart.

Potential causes include vitamin deficiencies, anaemia, thyroid disorders and skin disorders.

Hang nail

A tiny, torn piece of skins, more specifically eponychium or paronychium, next to a fingernail or toenail.

Habit tic

A condition that is often the result of nervous habits, including picking at, playing with, or stroking the nails constantly. Damage is usually to one or both thumbnails and is most often inflicted by a finger on the same hand.

Koilonychia - spoon nails

 A nail disease that can be a sign of hypochron  ic anaemia, especially iron-deficiency anaemia. Symptoms include abnormally thin nails which have lost their convexity, become flat or even concave in shape.

Lamella dystrophy

Also known as onychoschizia.  The splitting or peeling of the fingernail due to too much moisture or other causes.


White discolouration appearing on the nail. Can be white spotting, streaking or discolouration of the nail.


Also known atrophy. The wasting away of the nail. The nail loses shine, shrinks and may eventually wither away all together.


A nail disorder that causes fingernails or toenails to grow abnormally thick and being to turn yellow.


An infection of the soft parts around the nail or of the matrix beneath it.

Common causes include localized infection, minor injury to the matrix bed, or severe systemic illness. A new nail plate will form once the cause of the disease is removed.


An ingrown nail that cuts into one or both sides of the paronychium or nail bed.


A nail disease that causes one side of the nail to grow faster than the other resulting in thick curved fingernails or toenails. Also known as Ram’s Horn Nails


The loosening or separation of a fingernail or toenail from its nail bed. Usually starting at the tip of the nail and progressing back.


Also known as tinea unguium – a fungal infection of the nail. Symptoms may include white or yellow nail discoloration, thickening of the nail and separation of the nail from the nail bed.


The habit of biting the fingernails.


Inflammation of the folds of tissue surrounding the nail due to infection or inflammation.


Small depressions on the surface of the nail. It can be shallow or deep. It is caused by defective development of the layers of the superficial nail plate.


An overgrowth of the proximal nail fold on the nail bed.  It is either dorsal or ventral depending on the site of involvement.


A chronic skin condition which can lead to thick fingernails with pitting, ridges om the nails, nail lifting away from the nail bed and irregular contour of the nail.


Blood poisoning which can result from biting of the fingernails.

Transverse ridges

Also known as Beau’s lines.  Transverse lines or grooves across the fingernails, or transverse depressions in the nail plate, from temporary disturbance of cell division where the nail develops.

Vertical ridges

Furrow that run from the tip of the nail down to the cuticle. Also called longitudinal striations or bands.

Tinea Ungium

Also known as Onychomycosis. a fungal infection of the nail. Symptoms may include white or yellow nail discoloration, thickening of the nail and separation of the nail from the nail bed.

Tinea Pedis

Also known as Athlete’s foot. A fungal infection that usually begins between the toes.  It can spread to the toenails causing discoloured, thick and crumbly toenails that pull away from the nail bed.


Herpectic whitlow is an infection created by the herpes simplex virus.  It typically affects the fingers or thumbs and can occur on the toe or on the nail cuticle. Symptoms include swelling, reddening and tenderness of the skin.



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