What is onychodystrophy?

Onychodystrophy is a term that describes the malformation of a fingernail or toenail. In medical terms, the word is often used in reference to a congenital condition that causes abnormalities in the bones of the fingers, leading to malformation of the nails. Onychodystrophy can also be caused by a wide variety of infectious and non-infectious diseases.

Nails are made up of cells that are cornified, meaning they have produced large amounts of a durable fibrous protein called keratin. Furthermore, the cornified cells no longer undergo any metabolic processes and are essentially dead cells. The nail is located on top of the nail bed and is attached to it, which is made up of cells that metabolize and divide very slowly. Nail deformities are often caused by infection of the nail bed or deformity in the underlying bone.

Onychodystrophy is a very broad term, because it refers to any abnormal change in the nail, excluding color changes. Thus, the term can refer to changes in the shape, size, strength, and brittleness of the nails, infections of the nail bed, and infections of the tissue surrounding the nail. These can be caused by diseases such as dermatitis, fungal or bacterial infections, inflammatory diseases, and even tumors. In addition, nail abnormalities can be caused by certain medications, such as antimalarial and antiviral medications and antibiotics, and by recreational drug use.

This term most often refers to any abnormal nail changes, but can also be used more specifically. Congenital onychodystrophy of the index fingers (COIF) is a syndrome in which abnormalities of the bones of the fingers cause dysplasia of the nails of the index fingers. Affected nails can become deformed in various ways. For example, the nails may be smaller than normal for the size of the finger, or there may be multiple small nails in the nail bed instead of one large nail. In some cases, the nail may be absent entirely.

The cause of this condition is not well understood. Although the condition is generally believed to be genetically inherited, there is evidence that many cases are spontaneous in origin. In cases where there is no family history of the condition, an ischemic injury is thought to in the womb could be the cause. An ischemic injury is one caused by a lack of blood and oxygen being supplied to the affected area. In this case, the nail abnormality may be due to reduced blood supply to the fingers during fetal development.

Treatment for onychodystrophy depends on the underlying cause of the condition. Often the nail abnormality itself does not require treatment; instead, the disease causing the abnormality is treated. When COIF causes the nail abnormality, no treatment is necessary unless a person with the condition decides to have surgery for cosmetic reasons.

Go up