Understanding Deformed Nails

The term “deformed nails” can refer to a number of conditions, and they are often a symptom of an underlying problem rather than a condition on their own. Nails are a very sensitive part of the body, and can change shape or deform depending on what is happening either directly to them, or elsewhere in the body. For instance, dehydration can cause brittle nails, while anemia can cause nails to become concave.

You can understand the anatomy of the nail with this diagram below – the visible part of the nail is called the nail plate, and the nail bed lies directly beneath it. This gives nails their healthy pinkish colour. The nail matrix is located at the base of the nail, and is responsible for its growth. Deformed nails usually affect either or both of these areas.

Nail diagram | Family Podiatry Centre | Best Foot Doctor Podiatrist DPM Clinic Singapore Malaysia

What causes Deformed Nails?

  • Direct trauma
    • This may cause nail ridges, the nail lifting off the nail bed, the loss of the entire nail or the deformed growth of new nails due to the damage caused to the nail matrix
    • It can also cause Beau’s lines, horizontal lines on the nail plate which occur when the growth of the nail slows down temporarily
  • Fungal infections
    • This can cause thickened toenails
  • Underlying conditions e.g arthritis, psoriasis, poor blood circulation, alopecia areata, ichthyosis, celiac disease, organ issues
    • Deformed nails caused by psoriasis or alopecia areata are usually pitted
    • Ram’s horn nails or onychogryphosis (when the nails thicken and grow in curled spirals) are caused by circulatory problems, psoriasis and ichthyosis
    • Spoon nails or koilonychia are concaved, and are caused by chronic iron deficiency, celiac disease or gut problems
    • Clubbed nails are curved with thickened fingertips that can be genetically inherited, or may be an indication of organ issues e.g heart, liver problems
Clubbed, deformed nails | Family Podiatry Centre | Best Foot Doctor Podiatrist DPM Clinic Singapore Malaysia

Best Deformed Nails Treatment

Because deformed nails are usually caused by other underlying conditions, we advise early diagnosis and treatment of those conditions with a specialist alongside treatment for the nails themselves at a podiatrist.

You may be tempted to just visit a pedicurist and see if they can beautify your nails, but without timely treatment, the deformities are likely to recur, or even become worse. Book a consultation with us today for a diagnosis.


Written by Kardem Kiter
Written by Kardem Kiter

Based in Singapore, Degree in Podiatric Medicine from the University of Johannesburg. Published in The Foot and member of The Golden Key Honour Society.

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