Pterygium Nail Disorders

Image by, courtesy of Claudia A. De La Garza

According to the Natural Products Association, 25 per cent of all adults will experience some kind of nail fungus or disorder by the age of 40 and that number climbs to 50 per cent after age 60.

Although nail disorders may affect people with unbalanced diets or certain illnesses more than healthier people, everyone is at risk. Some disorders, like Pterygium, make themselves very apparent and must be treated by a physician.


Pterygium nail disorder is identified by scar tissue growing over the top of the nail bed, either partially bisecting the nail or completely growing over whole sections of the nail, possibly resulting in loss of the nail. It can appear on both fingernails and toenails. Pterygium is sometimes associated with a purplish rash on the mouth and skin. Pterygium may affect one single nail or multiple nails on the body.


Pterygium results from trauma to the nail, either from surgery or a deep cut to the nail, and the body's production of scar tissue to repair the trauma. Other causes of Pterygium include malnutrition, reaction to chemotherapy and iron deficiency.


A subset of general Pterygium nail disorder is Pterygium Inversum Unguis, where the skin under the nail grows forward and pushes out from underneath. It may be hereditary or caused by allergic reaction to chemicals. The disorder must be treated by a doctor; the skin growing forward is filled with blood and nerve endings and if pushed back under the nail, may result in loss of blood and extreme pain.


Pterygium caused by trauma or illness can't be prevented, but it is treatable with cortisone injections (to stop the scar tissue growth) or surgery. Pterygium may also be treated with topical steroids or anti-inflammatory medicines. Patients who are already suffering from anaemia can help fight Pterygium by ensuring their iron intake is appropriate for their bodies' requirements (Pterygium is linked to iron deficiency).

Expert Insight

Nails Magazine advises that people with suspected Pterygium nail disorders should not have any type of nail product (polish, remover) applied to their nails. Nail technicians such as manicurists are advised against any kind of buffing of the nails or cutting/pushing back on the cuticles as it may be very painful, cause bleeding or spread infection. Pterygium causes the nail plate to become weakened and pressure from manicure instruments may cause serious damage.