Healthy fingernails are an indication of good health. However, if the fingernails of a child are not looking good, then it is likely that something is wrong with the child’s health. There are several causes of fingernail problems in children. Nails can be affected by fungal or bacterial infection or injury. It could be a sign of some disease that has not yet been detected, or the problem could lie with the genetics of the child.
Fingernail Disorders in Children
Every type of nail disorder has its own characteristics. It is with the help of these specific features that we can identify the fingernail problems. Following are the most commonly observed fingernail issues found in children:
✦ Pitting on the Nails
This occurs mainly due to some abnormalities in the formation of the nail plate on the matrix of the fingernail. It may or may not affect all the fingernails. It looks like a small depression on the surface of the nail. The pits can be small and shallow, or large and deep. As a result of pitting, a nail may lose its natural tightness and fall off. It can be caused due to various skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema, atopic dermatitis, due to injury, and sometimes it is hereditary as well. When pitting is caused by psoriasis, then a number of changes are observed in the appearance of the fingernails. They are: discoloration of the nail plate, one or more lines on the surface of the nails, increased thickness of the skin that lies below affected nails, etc. Later the nails tend to get crumbled.
✦ Beau’s Lines
This can be described as a deep line of depression on the nail plate crossing the fingernail horizontally. Beau’s lines are formed as a result of sudden disruption in the process of cell division in the nail matrix. This can be caused due to some infection in the fingernails, skin disease, or any underlying disease like diabetes. Other possible causes of beau’s lines in children are malnutrition, low calcium levels in blood, blockage in blood vessels, side effects of some drugs, or some kind of injury in the fingernails. It can happen to children of any age group. It can be found even in newborn babies. If these lines are formed in all the fingernails of an infant, then the cause of this problem is likely to be some intrauterine distress.
This disorder is also known as spoon nails as the affected nail looks like a spoon. The nail gets flattened in the middle while the edges move up, and thus gives a concave shape to the nail. The main cause of this problem is deficiency of iron in children. It can also be hereditary in some cases. Injury and overuse of oils and soaps by children can also lead to koilonychia. Other underlying health conditions like renal disease, thyroid dysfunction, and musculoskeletal conditions can also be responsible for koilonychia.
This is the medical term used to describe the problem of discoloration of nails. One or more white spots appear on the surface of the nail. It can affect one or more than one of the nails. Usually, it is caused because of some kind of injury on the base of the nail. These spots disappear as soon as the affected part of the nail regrows. Usually, the process of regrowing nails need almost eight months. So the spots will be gone after one year. Sometimes, it may happen due to deficiency of zinc, or because of diseases like cirrhosis.
Absence of the nail plate/plates is called anonychia. Congenital anonychia of all nails (it can be partial too), a very rare condition, is usually associated with certain ectodermal or mesodermal malformations. It may occur without any other coexisting major congenital disorder, or as a part of a syndrome.
✦ Other Fingernail Problems
➺ Brittle fingernails is a condition quite common in small children. This happens particularly on the thumbnail. Habits like thumb sucking and nail biting, or frequent hurting of the fingernails may lead to such problem.
➺ Ridging is another fingernail problem in children, and is characterized by raised lines running longitudinally across the nails. Superficial longitudinal oblique ridges, across the nail plates (forming a V-shaped pattern) are often found in kids, who are in their early childhood. Such nails are referred to as chevron nails. However, the nails look perfectly normal as the kids reach adolescent age.
➺ Protein deficiency can result in thin and flat nails.
➺ Onychomycosis (fungal nail infection), may occur in young children.
There are various types of treatments for fingernail disorders. Therefore, as soon as you detect any disorder, you should consult a dermatologist. Some laboratory tests are conducted to identify the infection, and then the actual treatment starts. If the nail problem is caused by some underlying condition, then your dermatologist will advise you to consult a specialist doctor to treat the particular disease.