Onychogryphosis or Ram’s Horn Nails is a medical condition characterized by the thickening and development of a curvature in the nails. It has been called as claw nails or ram’s horn nails as it causes the nails to take up the appearance of a claw or a ram’s horn. The nails develop a deep curve accompanied by their thickening and discoloration.
Onychogryphosis can be caused by a variety of reasons ranging from genetic to infections. Its major causes include:
- Injuries or trauma in the area surrounding the fingers by dropping something heavy on the nails or sports injuries
- Wearing tight or ill-fitting footwear can affect the nail bed resulting in the development of this condition. As they cause the fingers to be constricted, intense pressure on the fingers may also be a cause of this condition.
- Poor posture and unusual placement of feet can result in structural abnormalities which may ultimately lead to this condition
- Fungal infections of the foot
- Inadequate blood supply to the limbs
- Medical conditions like Diabetes mellitus
- Poor nutrition
- Peripheral vascular disease
The major symptoms of onychogryphosis include:
- Thickening, elongation and curving of the nails
- Yellow discoloration of the nail
- Pain or discomfort in the affected nails upon pressure.
- Thickening and tenderness of the nail plate
- Adjacent nails may also be affected by the elongation and development of curvature and this can result in more pain and infection.
- Onychogryphosis caused by fungal infections shows symptoms of brittle, crumbly and yellowish discoloured nails.
Although onychogryphosis can be detected by a through physical examination of the nails to look for thickening and claw shape appearance. However microscopic or histopathological assessment of the tissue may be performed to eliminate the possibility of a fungal infection. A Glucose Tolerance Test may also be performed to test for Diabetes Mellitus.
The treatment strategy for onychogryphosis usually involves the correction of the abnormal condition of the affected nail which is either done through cutting or filing the nail or its removal by carbon dioxide laser, surgical means and local analgesic. It requires the complete destruction of the germinal matrix to prevent the damaged nail from regenerating, otherwise small spikes or growing nail may pop out across the old nail surface.
Onychogryphosis may be prevented by following proper hygiene to ensure healthy nails. The use of proper fitting shoes and clean comfortable socks is always advisable. The nails should also be kept trimmed and clean at all times and nail polish should not be applied for long durations. Also application of moisturizing cream to nails can be very effective in preventing this condition. Additionally feet can also be soaked in warm salt water to prevent the development of this condition.