What Is a Hangnail?

it’s common to notice a tiny piece of skin growing somewhere around the base of the nail. It’s rugged in appearance and looks like a worn off skin from the side of the nail margins.

Such growths are called hangnails. They are common over our hands. However, a rare one may appear over the toes as well, like in those who stand in water, bare foot, for long hours.

What Causes Them?

Essentially, they arise when the skin gets depleted off its moisture and is exposed to excessive friction .

Extremely dry cuticles is one of the very common cause of getting a hangnail. This may happen in summer months or when we need to wash our hands very often with soap and water. Each wash renders the skin of our hands drier and devoid of moisture.

Our skin secretes minute quantities of an oily substance to protect itself from dryness. Excessive washing or extreme dryness may wash off this oily layer, baring the skin, and making it vulnerable to dryness.

Over a dry skin, even regular activities would produce too much friction and roughness.

It is the tips of our hands that are subjected to maximum rubbing with things around us. So, the skin over the tips of each finger and that around the base of the nail start peeling off slightly due to friction.

This is how a hangnail gets produced.

Why Do Hangnails Hurt?

A hangnail may get irritated by constant touching with objects or hands. This constant irritation may inflame them. It is then that they start paining.

The site may become red and even swollen. Hangnails may be quite painful, enough to distract you from work.

What If We Don’t Treat Them?

There reside several bacteria and fungus over the surface of our skin. An inflamed spot from a hangnail provides a good opportunity for these bugs to enter into the skin and grow there.

Hangnails may then get infected, become more painful and swollen. If still not attended, we may see pus getting collected beneath the sides of our nail, or where ever the hangnail is present.

This infection may spread internally/ deeper, to affect underlying tissues, giving rise to Cellulitis.

How To Get Rid Of Hangnails?

If you’ve just noticed a hangnail over any of your digits, get a clean sharp nail cutter and cleanly cut it off with it.

Remember, Never To Pull Off A Hangnail. This would immediately produce a tiny breach in the skin, where it is attached, and allow bacteria present over the skin to enter inside. The affected site becomes very prone to being infected.

So, the trick is too cleanly CUT OUT the hangnail.

After that, apply any moisturizer or emollient over your hands to restore back skin hydration and oiliness.

Home Treatment Of Hangnails

Once you have a hangnail, that’s paining and appears red or swollen, it needs to be treated.

It can be usually managed at home.

  • First of all, cleanly cut out the visible portion of the hangnail.
  • If it’s swollen at the site, you’ll need to soak the digit in slightly salted water for some time. This would soften the area and reduce swelling.
  • Softening may also aid in draining out any infected fluid or inflammatory secretions from beneath the nail. This would reduce pain and swelling.
  • Now gently dab dry the affected digit. Do not rub the area with cloth while drying to avoid friction and further recurrence of another hangnail.
  • Now, you’ll need to apply any antibiotic cream, like Neosporin, over the site.
  • Antibiotic application may be repeated thrice daily.
  • Avoid friction or rubbing over the affected area, till it gets completely cured.

Any Vitamin Deficiency Related With Hangnails?

There’s no direct correlation with any nutritional deficiency for getting a hangnail. The cause is clearly dryness or friction.

However, a good nail health requires you to take enough proteins, daily iron, Folic acid and vitamin A and E needs.

Having a healthy diet daily, rich in fruits, vegetables and proteins would help with your skin and nail health in a long run.

Preventing Hangnails

  • Avoid dryness over your hands. Make a habit of rubbing any cream or emollient over them after each wash, or at regular intervals. You’ll need to take care in all months of the year. Summers show that they’re dry, however, winters are drier.
  • Excessive hand washing or soaking hands in water for long hours, as during washing utensils or clothes, may give you hangnails.
  • Try avoiding long hours of such works. You may consider wearing plastic gloves over your hands, or divide the work into two or more sessions, instead of one bigger one.
  • Keep your hands well hydrated and moisturized.
  • Avoid unnecessary friction or roughness over your digits. If you are planing rough dry work, like carpentering or gardening, it is advisable to wear gloves.
  • Diabetics need to care special precautions, as they are prone to getting their hangnails infected.