Fingernail Basics

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Fingernail Basics And Information

Nails (finger and toe) and skin grow by a process dermatologist's call keratinazation [ker-a-tin-a-zae-shun]. On skin, the old cells are shed off as the new, healthy skin cells replace the old from below. In this manner, our skin is constantly replenishing itself without becoming thicker because the older dead cells are removed. In nails, the healthy new cells appear from the base of the nail and push the older ones out farther (creating an elongating nail). Thus, nails grow until we cut them because the old cells are only pushed farther away from the base of the nail by the newly formed nail material.Healthy Fingernails

Nail and skin keratinazation differ in the types of protein materials (called keratin) the body uses to make them. That's why nails are harder and tougher than skin.

Nail keratinazation occurs from a part of the nail called the matrix. The matrix of each nail is a band of tendinous appearing material that lies beneath the nail cuticles and skin just behind it. The cells in the matrix are constantly forming new nail material that pushes the older nail forward. In fact, if the matrix is damaged from a traumatic event or cut in an accident, the nail in the area of damage will never grown out normally again. If this happens, the nail around the damaged area on a particular finger will look fine, but in the matrix area damaged there is a horizontal streak where the nail is absent or appears abnormal.

The nail matrix is full of dividing cells which age, keratinize and progress forward to form the nail plate. The nail plate is what we consider our "nail" and has a thickness of 0.3-0.5 mm and grows an average of 0.3mm/month. However, our fingernails do grow faster than our toenails. The nail plate is intimately above a nail bed which produces small amounts of keratin. The hyponychium is the thickened epidermis which is below the free edge of the nail. The pink color of the nail can be accounted for by dermal capillaries that are adjacent to the nail bed. The distal white lunula is basically the visible part of the nail matrix.

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