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Planning Retirement Online

Tough as nails            

                            September 2008



hard as nailsAs we get a little older, so many things change that it can be quite overwhelming.

One thing that can catch people by surprise is the change in their nails. The first things you may begin to notice are vertical ridges across your nails, running from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. These ridges increase with age and are very common. They don’t usually indicate anything serious and the exact cause isn’t known. However, there is a medical term for this – onychorrhexis. I prefer to use nail ridges!!

Ridges that go horizontally instead of vertically, ie from one side of the nail to the other, are known as transverse ridges or 'Beau's lines'. These appear when a temporary interruption of nail growth occurs. This interruption may be caused when the body experiences an illness, such as a heart attack or pneumonia, or any other shock to the system. The ridges generally grow out in time.

Getting older can also make your nails softer and this can result in vertical splits extending from the tip backwards towards the cuticle. You need to check you are having adequate levels of iron and zinc in your diet as this helps to keep nails strong. Dermatologists recommend using a strong moisturiser that contains lactic acid twice a day, especially after a shower or when the nails are wet. Massaging almond oil into the nails helps strengthen and protect them as well.

White spots on your nails are very common and are usually caused by the nails being knocked or damaged in some way. There can be a hereditary tendency towards white spots as well. There is no treatment for this, the white spots will simply grow up and then out with the nail.

Another thing we may well notice as we get older is that our nails are getting thicker.

The ageing process as well as trauma can cause thickening, but it can also be caused by fungal nail infections and skin conditions such as psoriasis.

Pitting is when your nail starts to look a little like a sewing thimble – lots of little raised surfaces. Pitting can be caused by trauma or as a result of certain illnesses including arthritis.

Keeping your nails in good shape shouldn’t be too difficult, ideally nails should be trimmed around every two weeks but everyone has slightly different growth rates, and the rate of growth can also be affected by your general fitness or illness.

Nails can be an indication of general good health, so if you notice a sudden change in appearance or colour, it could be an indication of an underlying health problem and it would then be best to seek medical advice.



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