Hand Doctors Discuss the Effects of Stress on the Fingernails

Recent clinical studies have proven what hand doctors have always known: mental stress can lead to physical problems with the fingernails.

Yet, in these challenging times, stress in unavoidable. Job losses, financial worries, homeschooling kids, and the frustration and boredom of quarantine isolation can all cause stress to build up to a point that it takes a toll on the body.

In this article Macomb County board certified hand doctor Dr. Uzma Rehman discusses how stress affects the fingernails.

How the Body Responds to Stress

When a person experiences a stressful situation, their body produces more of the hormone “cortisol”. The increase in this “stress hormone” can cause a variety of negative responses in the body.

Additionally, a study in the medical journal Archives of Dermatology found that stress reduces the body’s ability to retain water – leading to water loss and dehydration that can causing dryness and cracking of the skin and the fingernails.

And, because stress interferes with the body’s cellular repair mechanisms, it means that any damage to the fingernails will not be as readily repaired.

Stress Effect on Fingernails

Fingernails are also subject to stress-related damage – both from these changes in body chemistry, as well as from stress-triggered “habits.

The changes in the body chemistry due to excessive duress can result in physical changes to the nails. People experiencing extreme stress have been known to develop white horizontal lines across the fingernail. Additionally, brittle, peeling nails can also be a side effect of undue stress.

Stress-Triggered Fingernail “Habits”

During any extreme stress – such as the coronavirus pandemic – people with pre-existing nervous habits can get worse. And even people who never had nervous habits many people develop new nervous coping mechanisms.  Fingernails biting, picking at cuticles, or simply rubbing the fingers over the thumbnail repeatedly can be the results of stress.

Unfortunately, these habits are not “harmless” as they can lead to nailbed infections, distortion of the nail plate, and even unsightly raised ridges in the middle of the fingernail. Additionally, stress-related finger nail biting or skin picking is also very dangerous because it increases the likelihood of coronavirus transmission.

Macomb County Hand Doctors

The hand doctors at Macomb Hand Surgery in Macomb County care deeply about their patients – in good times, as well as during this time of unprecedented stress.

We are always here to help you with your hand and fingernail concerns – including via video consultation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Macomb County Hand Doctors: 586.532.0803