Nail Plate

In this comprehensive examination of the nail plate, delve into its anatomy and the vital role it performs in human physiology. Explore its underlying structures and common issues, including nail plate separation and avulsion. Discover the essential nursing care required for nail plate injuries alongside expert advice on prevention and treatment. The fundamental understanding of the nail plate function's significance will be examined to provide in-depth knowledge beneficial to nursing practice.

Nail Plate Nail Plate

Create learning materials about Nail Plate with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Table of contents

    Understanding the Nail Plate

    When it comes to the study of nursing, it is essential to comprehend all parts of the human body, including the small but significant nail plate. The nail plate is an integral part of our body's protective system and deserves thorough exploration to fully understand its purpose and structure.

    Nail Plate Definition

    The nail plate is the hard and translucent portion of the nail that you see on the surface of your fingers and toes. It is made of a protein called keratin, the same substance your body uses to create hair and skin cells. The nail plate's primary function is to protect the underlying sensitive tissue, the nail bed.

    The nail plate's toughness and impermeability are due to the compressed keratin fibers contained within it. These tightly-packed layers provide the necessary rigidity to maintain the structure of the nail plate and protect against potential harm.

    Anatomy of the Nail Plate

    Have you ever wondered what makes up the nail plate and its surrounding structures? Aside from the keratin that mainly comprises the nail plate itself, there are other key components of the nail anatomy to be aware of.

    • The nail matrix: This is the area where your nail plate forms. It contains nerves, lymph and blood vessels to supply nutrients to developing nail cells. Damage to the matrix can lead to nail deformities.
    • The nail bed: Located beneath the nail plate, the nail bed supports the nail plate and provides a secure site for its attachment.

    Let's say you've accidentally hit your finger with a hammer. You may notice that your nail has turned a darker colour, usually blue or purple. This is because the impact has caused bleeding under the nail plate, in the nail bed area. Over time, the nail plate will continue to grow and the darkened section will eventually move towards the end of the nail and be trimmed off.

    In order to keep your nail plates healthy, it is important to have a balanced diet, maintain good hygiene, and avoid actions that can harm your nails, such as nail biting or using harsh nail products.

    Underlying Structures of the Nail Plate

    The nail plate, while visually simple, is only one component of a much more complex system. Underneath the nail plate lie multiple structures that aid its function and contribute to the health of the nail as a whole. A comprehensive understanding of these underlying structures not only enhances the knowledge of nail anatomy but also provides immense value to the field of nursing as it aids in the identification and understanding of various nail diseases and conditions.

    The Nail Plate Rests on Which Area of the Nail

    The nail matrix and the nail bed are the two primary structures that lie beneath the nail plate.

    The nail matrix, also known as the König's matrix, is the aspect where the nail plate originates and develops . It contains nerves, lymphatics, and blood vessels, nourishing the nascent nail cells. Any damage or disruption to the matrix can lead to abnormalities in the growth and appearance of the nail plate.

    Located more distally, is the nail bed, also known as the sterile matrix. Here is where the nail plate securely attaches, enveloping the understructure. This area contributes to the formation of the nail plate's ventral layers and gives the plate its pink colour due to the capillaries underneath.

    While they work in unison to facilitate nail growth, it is interesting to highlight how different their reaction to injury can be.

    Suppose you know someone who accidentally shut their finger in a door; this person hits the distal phalange, thereby causing injury to the nail bed. Even if there is significant bleeding and pain, if the damage does not extend to the nail matrix, the nail plate will regrow normally after healing. On the other hand, if the injury extends to the nail matrix, the re-growth may develop ridges, splits or other deformities, due to the disruption of the site of nail production.

    The dominantly white half-moon region identified as the lunula is also part of your nail bed and considered the visible part of your nail plate's matrix. Aware observation of the lunula can sometimes signal systemic health issues. For instance, the absence of lunula in all nails can be a sign of malnutrition, anaemia or depression, while a blue lunula can indicate silver poisoning or lung and heart problems.

    Keratinocytes are the primary cells in the nail matrix that fill with keratin, dehydrate, flatten and densely overlap to form the nail plate. The number of matrix keratinocytes under the nail bed and the speed at which they fill with keratin and harden all contribute to the thickness and shape of the nail plate.

    Common Issues with the Nail Plate

    While the nail plate serves a vital function in the protection of the nail bed, it can also experience various ailments or conditions that cause distress or discomfort. Some common issues affecting the nail plate include nail plate separation, avulsion, and other abnormalities. Understanding these conditions is crucial in the field of nursing, as proper identification aids in prompt and effective treatment.

    Nail Plate Separation

    Nail plate separation, in medical terms known as Onycholysis, is a common nail disorder where the nail plate separates or detaches from the underlying nail bed. This condition can affect one or several nails and part or the entirety of the nail plate.

    It's essential to understand that this condition is commonly a symptom of underlying issues and can be influenced by factors such as:

    • Infections: Both fungal and bacterial infections may lead to nail plate separation.
    • Trauma or injury: Repeated pressure or impact can result in the looseness of the nail plate.
    • Skin conditions: Diseases such as psoriasis or dermatitis can cause Onycholysis.
    • Certain medications or chemotherapy drugs can also contribute to this condition.

    Imagine you are a nurse and you have a patient with sudden nail plate separation in multiple nails without any history of trauma. On further investigation, you find that the patient is currently using tetracycline, a type of antibiotic that happens to be photosensitising. Prolonged sunlight exposure can induce Onycholysis in patients using these types of medications. In such an instance, your nursing knowledge helps identify the possible cause and formulate appropriate advice.

    Avulsion of Nail Plate

    Avulsion of the nail plate refers to the entire or partial removal or tearing away of the nail plate from the nail bed due to trauma or injury. Various degrees of avulsion exist, ranging from a corner of the nail lifting to the complete removal of the nail plate.

    When a nail plate avulsion occurs, it can expose the sensitive nail bed underneath, leading to pain, bleeding, and potential risk of infection. The invocation of an appropriate treatment plan is crucial, which may include cleaning, bandaging, antibiotics and occasionally, in serious cases, surgery.

    Let's consider the case of a marathon runner who comes to see you with a painful big toe. Upon examination, you find that the nail plate of the big toe is partially lifted off from the nail bed. This condition, known as "runner's toe" or "jogger's toe", is a form of nail plate avulsion often caused by repeated trauma to the nail from the shoes during long-distance running. Prompt identification of such injuries makes nursing management effective and timely.

    Nail Plate Abnormalities and Causes

    The nail plate can exhibit a range of abnormalities, including changes in colour, shape, texture, and thickness. Some common examples include Beau's lines (horizontal ridges), pitting (small depressions), leukonychia (white spots), koilonychia (spoon nails), onychorrhexis (brittle nails), and melanonychia (dark streaks). These changes often reflect systemic diseases or local issues affecting the nail matrix or nail bed.

    Let's look into some of the possible causes:

    • Nutritional deficiencies: Insufficient intake of certain vitamins, minerals, or protein can affect nail health and lead to abnormalities.
    • Systemic diseases: Conditions like kidney disease, liver disease, thyroid disorders, or psoriasis can cause changes in the nail plate.
    • Infections: Fungal infections can cause thickening and discoloration of the nail plate.
    • Exposure to chemicals: Long-term exposure to harsh substances can lead to brittle nails.

    Suppose a patient comes to you with multiple horizontal lines or ridges across their nails . You recognize these as Beau's lines, an abnormality often linked to severe systemic illnesses, malnutrition or chemotherapy. With a keen eye and solid knowledge base, you guide the patient for further investigations, ultimately uncovering that the patient recently had a high fever due to severe pneumonia. This is a vivid example of how knowledgeable nurses can use nail plate abnormalities to detect underlying health conditions.

    Nursing Care for Nail Plate Injuries

    In the field of nursing, dealing with nail plate injuries extends beyond merely understanding the anatomy of the nail. It encompasses a wide range of duties, including the prevention, early identification, appropriate treatment, and provision of educational resources to patients for ongoing care.

    Preventing and Treating Nail Plate Injuries

    The prevention of nail plate injuries plays a valuable role in maintaining overall nail health, while treatment involves an array of practices suitable for varying types of injuries. Ensuring an understanding of both the preventative and curative measures is fundamental in offering holistic nursing care.

    Hygiene, diet and proper nail care are pivotal in the prevention of nail plate conditions. For instance, regular hand washing and sanitising can help prevent infections, a balanced diet rich in vitamins and proteins can boost nail health, and avoiding biting, picking or harsh chemical exposure helps maintain the structural integrity of the nail plate.

    Moreover, wearing well-fitted shoes, using protective gloves during manual tasks, and refraining from barefoot walking in public areas can safeguard against physical trauma and fungal infections.

    Preventative Measures:

    • Regular hand washing and sanitising.
    • A balanced diet rich in vitamins, proteins and calcium.
    • Avoiding nail biting or picking.
    • Refraining from using harsh chemical substances on the nails.
    • Wearing shoes that fit well; avoiding high heels or tight shoes.
    • Using protective gloves for tasks involving manual labour or cleaning.
    • Not walking barefoot in public areas.

    When it comes to treating nail plate injuries, the first step is an accurate assessment. This includes a thorough history and a detailed examination to identify the type and extent of the injury, any underlying causes, and potential signs of infection. Treatment avenues vary and are dependent on these factors.

    Common Treatment Methods:

    Onycholysis: The management strategy primarily involves identifying and removing the cause, educating patients about avoiding irritants, and treating any underlying infection.

    For example, if the underlying cause is a fungal infection, the treatment would likely involve antifungal medication. If the cause is trauma, then lifestyle changes to avoid the source of trauma would be the initial step, along with possibly trimming the detached nail plate to prevent further injury.

    Nail Avulsion: This follows a more straightforward approach, typically involving cleaning the area, applying a bandage, and in some cases, prescribing antibiotics to prevent infection. Paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can use for pain management. Subsequent checks ensure the healing process is on track, and there are no signs of infection.

    For example, when dealing with a case of total nail avulsion, the nail plate is typically left to regrow on its own, which can take up to six months, during which time the exposed nail bed must be protected. For partial avulsion that involves jagged or sharp edges, the nail may need to be trimmed or filed down to prevent additional injury or snagging on clothing.

    Nail Deformities: Conditions such as ridges, pits or white spots typically resolve over a period as the nail grows out, as long as the underlying issue has been addressed. However, severe deformities or those caused by permanent matrix damage may need more active treatments, like topical retinoids, corticosteroids, or cyclosporine.

    When dealing with a patient who has Beau's lines due to chemotherapy, the nurse will need to provide education on what to expect as the nail regrows and reassurance that the lines will diminish over time as the nail continues to grow and the affected area is trimmed away.

    In the heart of nursing care lies the focus on patient education, teaching them about the importance of nail health, preventive measures, early signs of conditions to watch out for, and when to seek medical attention. Intervening early when issues are minor can prevent a minor issue from escalating into a more serious problem down the line.

    In-depth Understanding of the Nail Plate Function

    When considering the anatomy of the human body, the nail plate, albeit small, holds a critical role and function. Understanding such function forms a solid foundation in the study of human anatomy and enriches the field of medical and healthcare disciplines, including Nursing.

    The Role of the Nail Plate in Human Anatomy

    The primary function of the nail plate is to protect the underlying sensitive tissue, the nail bed, from injuries and infections. Its hard structure acts as a shield against physical trauma that could otherwise easily damage this sensitive area.

    The nail plate is the hard and transparent part of the nail that lies on the surface of the skin. It is composed mainly of keratin, a type of protein also found in skin and hair. The thickness, colour, and shape of nail plates can vary substantially among individuals, depending on various factors such as age, genetics, health status, and lifestyle.

    Aside from protection, the nail plate performs several other key functions. It enhances sensitivity by acting as a counter force when the pulp of fingers or toes touch an object, thereby improving precision and grip. This is most notable in tasks involving fine motor skills, such as writing, needlework or playing a musical instrument.

    Consider playing the guitar. A guitarist frequently uses their fingers to strum the strings, and the nails, especially of the thumb and index finger, increase the sensitivity and control they have over each stroke. A ripped or overly trimmed nail—deficiencies of the nail plate—would immediately affect their ability to play with subtlety and precision.

    The nail plate, due to its semi-transparent nature, can serve as an indicator of personal health. Changes in the its colour, texture, or growth patterns often signify underlying health conditions or nutritional deficiencies, providing valuable diagnostic information.

    • Deformation or discoloration may indicate fungal infections.
    • White spots or lines may mean mineral deficiencies or an injury to the base of the nail.
    • Yellowing nails could indicate respiratory diseases, diabetes or a potential reaction to certain medications.

    Take the case of a patient who visits a nurse with significantly yellowed nails with slowed growth and a thickened plate. The nurse recognises these symptoms as potential signs of a chronic respiratory condition or lymphedema. The nurse can then wisely guide the patient towards the necessary examinations and tests to identify and address the underlying issue.

    Furthermore, the presence of nail plates on our fingers and toes also contributes to overall body language and non-verbal communication. The care we pratice towards our nails, including the grooming, painting, or adornment, often becomes a form of personal expression and identity.

    In summary, the nail plate, while seemingly simple, has a substantial function in the human anatomy. An in-depth understanding of its role not only enriches our anatomical knowledge but further underpins the importance of maintaining nail health in the pursuit of overall well-being.

    Nail Plate - Key takeaways

    • Nail plate is the hard, transparent part of the nail composed mainly of keratin that protects the sensitive nail bed beneath it and varies in thickness, colour, and shape based on age, genetics, health status, and lifestyle.
    • The nail plate originates and develops from the nail matrix, containing nerves, lymphatics, and blood vessels that nourish nascent nail cells; disruption here can cause growth abnormalities.
    • The nail plate rests on the nail bed, contributing to the formation of the ventral layers of the nail plate and providing its pink colour due to underlying capillaries.
    • Common issues with the nail plate include nail plate separation (Onycholysis) from the underlying nail bed, avulsion (partial or total removal due to trauma), and various abnormalities often indicative of systemic diseases or local issues.
    • Nursing care for nail plate injuries addresses prevention, identification, appropriate treatment, and patient education about ongoing care, prevention measures and early signs of conditions.
    Nail Plate Nail Plate
    Learn with 15 Nail Plate flashcards in the free StudySmarter app

    We have 14,000 flashcards about Dynamic Landscapes.

    Sign up with Email

    Already have an account? Log in

    Frequently Asked Questions about Nail Plate
    What is the role of the nail plate in nursing care?
    The nail plate is crucial in nursing care as it can indicate a patient's general health. Changes in its colour, texture, or growth rate may signal underlying health issues, require intervention, or necessitate a referral to a specialist.
    How does a damaged nail plate affect a patient's hand hygiene in nursing?
    A damaged nail plate can harbour bacteria, fungus, and other microbes, posing challenges to effective hand hygiene in nursing. It can also be a source of discomfort or pain, reducing the patient's ability to thoroughly clean their hands.
    How can a nurse maintain the health of a patient's nail plate?
    A nurse can maintain the health of a patient's nail plate by encouraging good hygiene, including regular cleaning and careful drying of nails. They can also advocate for a balanced diet, as nutrition impacts nail health, and advise on avoiding harsh chemicals and physical stress to the nails.
    What are the common diseases and disorders of the nail plate that nurses should be aware of?
    Common diseases and disorders of the nail plate include onychomycosis (fungal infection), paronychia (infection around the nail), ingrown toenails, ridges or white spots due to injury, psoriasis, and nail plate separation (onycholysis).
    What precautions should nurses take when dealing with a fungal or bacterial infection of a patient's nail plate?
    Nurses should wear gloves to prevent the spread of infection, practise good hand hygiene before and after care, provide patient education about proper nail care, and administer prescribed antifungal or antibacterial medication. It's crucial to ensure sterilisation of shared tools and equipment.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What is the function of the nail plate?

    What makes up the nail plate and surrounding structures?

    How can you keep your nail plates healthy?


    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Nursing Teachers

    • 16 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    Get unlimited access with a free StudySmarter account.

    • Instant access to millions of learning materials.
    • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams, AI tools and more.
    • Everything you need to ace your exams.
    Second Popup Banner