The danger of constantly biting your nails

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The nail is made up of a hard keratin sheet that acts as a mechanical barrier protecting the distal area of ​​the fingers. It acts as a device for defense and grip, for better dexterity, and for sensory reception of the fingertips, as well as having an aesthetic function.

However, when we bite our nails we damage them, being in some people a disorder of years. Bite u ‘nailsonychophagia ‘is a compulsive habit, more frequent in children than in adults, and it can be familiar.

“It can occur in situations of excitement, anxiety, stress, or in states of boredom or inactivity. Some consider it to be a sign that accompanies a psychological or psychiatric problem, which is part of obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) ”, explains in an interview with Infosalus Dr. Lourdes Navarro, specialist from the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (AEDV).

Thus, this expert from the European Nail Society stresses that onychophagia can cause numerous disorders both locally, in the nail, and remotely. At the level of the nail, it says that changes are caused in its morphology, nails get smaller, are shortened, and even adopt a distal pointed appearance, in relation to the usual rectangular one.

In addition, the dermatologist maintains that the surface of the nail becomes rough, flakes easily and becomes finer. “Sometimes there is an alteration in color, pigmented areas are seen and even hemorrhagic linear lesions appear due to repetitive trauma from biting them,” he adds.

On the other hand, it indicates that the skin around the nail can become inflamed, red and edematous or swollen, and secondarily infected by bacteria, fungi and viruses. In turn, persistent onychophagia can cause a change in the morphology of the fingers, they become sharper and, although less common, Dr. Navarro maintains that osteomyelitis of the distal phalanx of the finger (infection) may appear.

Distant disturbances are rare, as added by the also member of the European Academy of Dermatology, such as resorption of the tooth root due to the force of the nibble and damage to the gums. “In children who repeatedly bite their nails an increase in Enterobacteriaceae has been found in the bacterial flora of the mouth”He adds.


With all this, and to avoid onychophagia recommends different guidelines, such as the application of products on the nail and on the skin that surrounds it, that they have a bitter taste, to avoid contact with the mouth for the unpleasant taste. However, the patient becomes accustomed to the flavors and continues with his habit of biting his nails, as he predicts.

Another solution, as specified, would be to carry out a bandage of the distal area of ​​the fingers, with tape, since this would act as a barrier on the one hand, and on the other hand it would make it difficult to bite the nails.

“Sometimes they are used behavioral treatments that are aimed at modifying behavior, and how to proceed in certain situations. Treatment with ‘N-acetyl cysteine’ at high doses has been proposed, although the results are highly variable, as well as the use of psychotropic drugs ”, emphasizes Dr. Navarro.


Ultimately, the expert emphasizes that behavior disorders towards the nail or nail tic disorders include onychophagia, onichotillomania, and tic habit deformity.

As described, Onychhotillomania is a psychodermatological disorder characterized by repetitive manipulation of the entire nail apparatus, either with the fingers of the hands or with other utensils.

“It can manifest associated with onychophagia, and tic habit deformity and the more severe forms can be associate with obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias or depression. The tic habit deformity is more frequent in adults, especially in the first fingernails, either unilaterally or bilaterally ”, he adds.

In turn, he emphasizes that in these cases the patient repeatedly manipulates the proximal part of the nail causing a loss of the cuticle, an increase in the size of the lunula, a modification of the longitudinal axis of the nail, and longitudinal pigmentation. located in the middle of the nail.

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