Critical Health News

Health Warnings In Fingernails

Fingernails

We humans love our nails. We spend nearly 8 billion dollars a year on those hard dead shell like materials on the tips of our fingers and toes. While adorning them with polish, varnish and even art may imply “cosmetic” and “superficial”, as it turns out, their condition, for better or worse, is a function of the entire body, and if you’re observant you can tell a lot about overall physical health by looking at the nails.

Technically speaking, nails are an extension of the skin. They’re a modified version of the epidermis, the top layer that composes about 10 percent of the body’s largest organ. Although it may look like one uniform structure, in reality, the nail (like the skin) is composed of numerous layers lying atop of each other. In fact, the average fingernail is composed of 25 of these ultra-thin slices that fuse into a firm, slightly elastic form by the action of microscopic threads called keratin. This is what gives them remarkable resilience and horse-hoof like strength. Keratin is a hard, flexible protein substance that is a common feature of hooves, horns, antlers, as well as the outer sheath that coats human hair. In addition to keratin, nails contain lots of minerals too, including: Iron, Carbon, Magnesium, Selenium, Silica, Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Sulfur and Oxygen, all of which contribute to their characteristic qualities. Interestingly the nail appendage (technically called the “nail organ”) also contains small amounts of the well-known cosmetic ingredient called glycolic acid, which acts to trap water and assure hydration.

Because of their rapid growth (healthy fingernails grow up to 4mm a month) the nails are an accurate portal into the inside of the body. While the eyes may be the window to the soul, the nails can be thought of as windows to your biochemistry. There’s a lot of information a good health care professional can glean from their appearance.

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Rosacea: More Than Skin Deep

Rosacea

Rosacea is a distressing and psychologically debilitating skin condition that affects an astounding 16 million or 5 percent of Americans. If you believe recent reports from the National Rosacea Society (NRS), the figures may be even worse. In a Harvard Medical School study, NRS researchers found a prevalence rate for rosacea of 16 percent in Caucasian women and an overall rosacea incidence of nearly 10 percent ina total population that also included Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians and Indians.

Rosacea, a Latin term that can be defined as “rose-colored”, shows up as redness on the cheeks and nasal area, although it sometimes involves oily skin, at which point it acquires the moniker “seborrhea”. In some especially unfortunate patients, blemishes and pustules can form and the skin around the nose can become thickened. Even more disturbing is rosacea that affects the eye, a condition that can result in ocular dryness, grittiness and a burning sensation. Still, despite it’s appearance, rosacea is best thought of not as a skin or eye problem, but rather as a circulatory one. This should be obvious, as the dilated blood vessels that are the featured characteristic of the rosacea patient, are located, not on top of the skin, but rather in the blood vessels located in the deeper tissues below.

Still, dermatologists and estheticians, as well as their patients, address the surface of the skin as the main target of therapies to alleviate the distressing ruddiness of rosacea. If you go to a skin care professional to treat the condition, more than likely, you’re going to leave with a prescription or suggestion for a topical cream or lotion, most often an antibiotic and occasionally an anti-inflammatory steroid. Sometimes laser therapy is suggested and occasionally exfoliation and skin peels are used. Recently, a pharmaceutical company called Foamix announced, with great fanfare, the results of a study on a new product called FMX 103, that showed a “statistically significant” reduction in lesions and pustules of rosacea patients. FMX 103 is a patented foaming, retooled version of minocycline, an old-time antibiotic that has been used to treat various skin conditions for 50 years.

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