Why Do We Have Nails? Let’s Find Out Its Role In Keeping Us Healthy

Here is everything you need to know about your nails. From their formation to different parts and their function. 

Charu Sharma
Written by: Charu SharmaUpdated at: Sep 20, 2021 11:08 IST
Why Do We Have Nails? Let’s Find Out Its Role In Keeping Us Healthy

Who doesn't love getting a nice manicure, shaping the nail and painting them with various colors and creating unique designs on them? Cutting, filing, painting, shaping everything is fun but is that all what nails are meant for? Have you ever wondered what the actual purpose of your fingernails is? Well if you are confused and are looking for the answer to this question, then read along the lines. Here is everything you need to know about your nails. From their formation to different parts and the function of fingernails and toenails with Dr Rishabh Kohli, General Physician, Wellness Healthcare.

What Are Nails Made Of?

When we talk about nails, it is not just the white-hard structure we are discussing. Our nails consist of various parts such as nail bed, nail plate and  nail matrix. Before getting into the purpose and function of nails, let us understand about the composition and parts of nails from Dr. Kolhi `Nails are made up of a protein called alpha keratin and have different parts like Nail bed, nail plate, nail matrix and hyponychium. Fingernails have three layers of tissues which are made up of keratin. Keratin is an amino acid protein that is naturally present in hair and nails.'

nail structure

Also Read: Pain In Finger Nails? Beware of These 6 Types Of Nail Problems

Why Do We Have Fingernails?

A simple one word answer to this question is “evolution” but you can surely read along to know the real purpose of this body part. Fingernails ate something that is present in almost all the primates including the human beings, apes and monkeys. Here’s what Dr. Kohli has to say about this “Finger nails essentially have a function of protecting our fingers  and also help in performing fine motor skills  . It is analogous to claws in vertebrates . It might be possible that nails might become vestigial (something which is of least importance for the human body) in the future. “ 

The Role Of Fingernails 

The primary function of these fingernails is to protect our fingertips. Not just this but our fingernails have some even more important role to play like-

  • Protecting from bacteria and viruses- Apart from protecting our fingertips from getting hurt, nails also protect the body from various viruses and bacteria and prevent them from entering inside. When a person’s nail bed gets disrupted, he/she is at a higher risk of getting nail infection.

finger nails

Image Credits- Saga

  • Providing Strength- Due to the hard outer covering on the tips of the nails, fingertips are said to be one of the strongest parts of our hands. Fingernails also consist of multiple small blood vessels. These blood vessels supply the blood to the fingernails and maintain the blood flow while you are holding or gripping something tightly. 
  • Enhancing motor skills- Remember that itchy feeling you had after that mosquito bite? What was your first reaction to it? Scratching right? Well you used your fingernails for that as well. Fingernails help to enhance motor skills and help in performing simple tasks like scratching, flipping, gripping, separating and picking items.

Also Read: Nail Care: The Ultimate Nail Shape Guide And Tips To Maintain Healthy Nails

Why do we have toenails?

Gripping, separating, flipping and picking are a few functions of our fingernails and by now they seem to be a bit useful. Well our fingers are not the only ones with nails as the case is similar with our toes as well. Do you remember the time when you hit your pinky toe on a piece of furniture? Did it hurt badly? Well it would have been even worse if your toe nails were missing. 

The key function of toenails is to protect the toes from any kind of injury. Toenails work as a protective barrier over our toes which not just protects them from injury but from various infections as well.  

Although one wouldn't die without fingernails and you do not need them to survive, it is almost impossible to perform certain tasks without their presence. 

With Inputs from Dr. Rishabh Kohli, General Physician, Wellness Healthcare.

Read more articles in Miscellaneous