We all have our vices and querks. There are things we realize other people may judge us for, but we just can’t seem to quit – tabloid magazines, letting the laundry pile up to the ceiling, being late. One bad habit you may not realize carries over to the feet is nail biting. That’s right folks! Some people are blessed with the flexibility to bite their toenails, just as they bite their finger nails. The habit of biting nails is thought to be related to stress, but can become more stressful due to the associated risks.
Bacteria in our environment gets onto our hands and under our nails. These bacteria, when ingested, can cause infection in our bodies. Some have believed that because of exposure to these bacteria through nail biting, it can improve one’s immune system. This has yet to be proven.
Because our skin has a certain healthy amount and diversity of bacteria/yeasts/etc on it (flora), biting nails can also lead to nail infections. These little microorganisms can sneak into a split of a nail or a break in the skin and lead to infections which can be very painful. In addition, viruses such as HPV (which causes warts) can get into the skin and cause the development of warts on your hands or feet. Warts are actually very common in those who bite their nails.
Biting your fingernails and toenails also leads to changing of position of the teeth which can lead to a need for correction of this. It also leads to excessive wearing of the teeth prematurely as well as misshapen teeth.
Finally, nail biting has been found to be associated with a higher quality of life impairment. The impairment loss is related to the amount of time involved with nail biting as well as the number of fingers/toes involved and visible nail abnormalities.
Avoid the urge to bite your nails! If you find yourself picking at your toes, ask yourself why and if it is because you feel that there is something painful or otherwise that needs to be addressed, come to the experts to discuss your better options!