Bruised or ingrown toenail, broken toenail – when should you see a doctor and when can you just let it grow out?

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THE ANATOMY OF YOUR NAILS

Your nails are well supplied with blood and can even maintain blood flow when you squeeze something really hard. And as tough as those keratin coatings are, they’re as sensitive as your fingertips thanks to an intricate network of nerves under each nail. Here is an overview of the anatomy of your nails:

Nail root: Also known as the germinal matrix, it is the nail factory. You might see a glimpse of it in the form of a white crescent found at the base of the nail known as the lunula, but it actually extends several millimeters into the finger.

Nail bed: Otherwise known as the sterile matrix, the nail bed contains blood vessels, nerves, and melanocytes that produce pigment. Healthy nail beds appear smooth and have no ridges or splits.

Nail plate: It is the actual nail and consists of translucent keratin.

Cuticle: It is the thin piece of skin that covers the nail plate that manicurists push back. It is also known as eponychium.

Paronychium: This refers to the fleshy folds on both sides of the nail. This is where toenails, ingrown toenails, and paronychia, a skin infection around the toenail, occur.

Hyponychia: This is the area below the nail where the keratin ends and the skin on your finger begins. This is also where it hurts a lot when you cut your nail too short.

Regarding growth rate, fingernails grow faster than fingernails, said Dr. Chuah Sai Yee, senior consultant at the National Skin Center: An average of 3.47 mm per month for fingernails. The nails on your dominant hand are also said to grow faster because it is believed to have a higher risk of injury and trauma and the body naturally sends more blood and nutrients for repair.

But in general, the growth rate of the little finger (3.08mm per month) is the slowest, Dr. Chuah said. Conversely, the fastest growing is your middle fingernail.

As for the nails, they grow at a much slower rate: a monthly average of 1.62 mm. The big toe nail is the fastest growing at an average of 2.10mm per month, she said.

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