Biotin and Nail Health
What is Biotin? Biotin is one of the B complex vitamins that help the body convert food into energy. Biotin is an important part of enzymes in the body that break down substances like fats and carbohydrates. Most people get the biotin they need from eating a healthy diet. It is believed that consuming more biotin can assist to regulate your blood sugar, promote healthy hair, skin and nails.
Biotin is made up of protein and amino acids – two things that support keratin production in the body. Keratin is also a type of protein that forms the cells that make up the tissue in our nails.
One component of our finger and toenails is the nail matrix.
The nail matrix is the most important structure within the nail unit. It is the area at the base of the nail, located under the cuticle. It is responsible for producing new cells that form the next new nail plate. The matrix contains specialized cells that divide and push the older cells forward, leading to nail growth. In short, its main job is to make new fingernails or toenails.
What happens if the nail matrix is destroyed?
If the matrix is destroyed it will not be able to create the nail. If there is minor damage it will be seen by a ridge(s), groove(s) or loss of colour in the emerging nail. This can heal with the right care and the nail it is hoped will grow out again without any noticeable damage. However, more serious and increased impact can damage this area at the bottom of the nail and result in a permanent fault seen in any future new nail plate/nail growth.
What health conditions can affect my nail matrix?
Some health conditions and other factors can affect your nail matrix, including:
- Fungal infection: Certain types of fungus (mold) can infect your nails, usually your toenails. Toenail fungus may appear as thick, yellow, cracked or cloudy nails.
- Injuries: Pinching or crushing your finger or dropping something heavy on your toe can injure your nail matrix. After a nail matrix injury, you may have bruising, ridges or discoloration. Your nail may fall off. Some injuries to your fingernails or toenails can cause a nail infection.
- Medications: Chemotherapy and other medications can temporarily affect your nail matrix, causing Beau’s lines or slow nail growth. Medications may also cause Mees’ lines (white bands across your nails) and nail color changes. Usually, these changes go away after you finish the medication.
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD): Peripheral artery disease causes less blood flow to your legs and feet. This reduced blood flow affects your nail matrix and can make nail growth slower.
Additionally, certain skin conditions and diseases can affect your nail matrix, such as:
- Eczema: Severe eczema can affect your nail matrix and temporarily interfere with nail growth. You might see Beau’s lines, pitting (small, pinhole-like dots) and texture or color changes.
- Psoriasis: Up to 80% of people with psoriasis develop nail psoriasis. Nail psoriasis can cause changes to your nails, including white lines, pitting and crumbling.
- Subungual melanoma: Nail matrix melanoma, also called subungual melanoma, is a type of skin cancer that affects your nail matrix. Brown or black discoloration on your nail is the most common sign.
What are the implications of trauma to the nails?
Trauma to the nail can cause the production of new nail cells to stop for as long as several weeks if not more. The extent of the injury often depends on where it occurs. If you have a deep cut or trauma to the germinal matrix at the base of the nail, it’s possible the nail may never grow back normally.
We oftentimes hear clients ask about having their toenails cut shorter… however cutting nails too short can in fact lead to onychocryptosis /an ingrown nail(s) which can cause extreme pain, swelling and infection if left untreated. In fact once you have experienced an ingrown toenail it is extremely common to return time and time again.
As we know nails grow via the matrix which constantly produces new keratin that gathers at the nail plate slowly pushing the nail forward and creating new growth.
Fingernails grow about 3 millimeters per month whilst toenails grow slower at about 1 millimeter per month although there is a large variation amongst the general populace. Some people’s nails grow faster especially on younger people and those with a great blood supply supported by a healthy vasa nervorum (the nerves supplying the blood vessels).
Are you suffering from any nail condition? At The Chelsea Clinic, we can help. One of our podiatrist can assist and then recommend what treatments are best to get you back on track. Podiatrist South Kensington
Schedule an appointment here or you may call us at +44 (0) 207 101 4000.
We hope you have a feetastic day!
-The Chelsea Clinic and Team
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