Further reading

The human nail, chemically similar to horn and hoof, is not essential to the survival of Homo sapiens, but it has many important functions that are crucial for the efficient use of the hands and feet. It is also a prime route for the transmission of organisms (both macro-and microscopic), toxins, irritants and allergens. Maintaining nail cleanliness is essential to many aspects of health. Nails of nurses may be the vehicle of transmission of severe and fatal infections, especially in neonatal or intensive care units. Nurses should keep their nails short and avoid wearing artificial nails and nail varnishes.

The nail is also important for beauty; for many people cleanliness alone does not achieve aesthetic satisfaction. A multitude of products, implements and procedures are now on sale to enhance the appearance of nails and finger tips. While the cosmetic industry encourages and caters for the trappings of nail care and adornment, the motivation is probably innate; nail beautification was an established practice in societies long past, and the long finger nail—often accentuated by gold and jewelled fingertip extenders—was indicative of high rank and station in society. Thus for social, cosmetic and cultural reasons and to aid normal function of digits with abnormal nails it is important to consider cosmetic, podiatric or chiropody treatment for dystrophies in which cure is not possible.

Many nail conditions require camouflage. Several factors should be taken into account:

• the type and origin of the dystrophy

• the part of the nail apparatus affected (nail plate or distal phalanx).

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