Rx for Readers: Nails, bananas and knee cartilage

Readers get answers for their medical and health queries.

Hands with the red manicure (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Hands with the red manicure (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
I have a friend – a concert musician – who years ago received a blow to her finger. Since then, her nail does not grow. She finds it very embarrassing. What is the reason for this? Can anything be done to help her? H.C., Petah Tikva
My middle finger on the right hand has a nail that, when it grows out, always develops a split in the same place. Is there any treatment for this? N.T., Ariel
Veteran Jerusalem dermatologist Dr. Julian Schamroth replies:
Very often, damage to the nail bed – be it the skin beneath the nail, or the skin proximal to the nail – can result in scarring of the nail bed tissue. This may cause various deformities, or dystrophies, of the nail, ranging from mild ridging or rippling of the nail plate to severe distortion or even absence of parts of the nail.
Unfortunately, there is no cream or topical application that can repair the damage: a scar – by definition – is usually permanent. There are some who attempt to surgically excise the area of the scar, but in this author’s opinion, the results are usually unsatisfactory.
There is another nail deformity that many patients claim – falsely – began after some trauma. This is a longitudinal split on the fingernail, usually on one or both thumbnails. The split extends from the cuticle to the end of the nail, and is crisscrossed with small lateral lines. It may look like some trauma has caused this deformity, but in most cases it occurs spontaneously, or there may be a genetic tendency to develop this.
Here, too, there is not much that can be done to improve the look of the nail.
Other nail distortions can occur due to a variety of other disorders, ranging from a tendon cyst (or ganglion) on the distal finger to tumors or infections. It is advisable to see a dermatologist to exclude these disorders.
I like eating bananas, especially in winter, when they keep well. But they give me constipation. Oddly, when my husband eats a lot of bananas, they cause diarrhea. How can the same food cause opposite effects in two people? R.A., Beit Shemesh
Dr. Olga Raz, a veteran clinical dietitian, formerly head of the department at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, answers:
The opposite reactions you have had from eating bananas mean that every person reacts differently to different foods. In general, the effects of food on the gastroenterological system are apparently due to the composition of bacteria in the gut, which is different for everyone. For some reason, everyone accepts the fact that some pulses cause gas in some people and do not affect others at all.
Regarding bananas, it is not worthwhile eating a lot of them, as they have a lot of sugar. One or two a day is enough to benefit from their minerals.
If you eat just one banana daily and drink a lot of water, it may prevent your constipation.
I am a 39-year-old man of normal weight. I have had knee pains, which caused me to lose about nine kilos. But I love to run in the mornings. Will running cause harm to my knee cartilage or, maybe, will it improve the situation? D.T., Petah Tikva
Dr. Gal Dubnov-Raz, a sports medicine physician in the sports and exercise medicine service at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, comments:
In general, running does not damage the knee cartilage, and you are right – it may improve the situation.
Numerous studies have examined the associations between sport/physical activities and cartilage damage in older adults as assessed by clinical questionnaires, imaging studies and even the need for knee joint replacement.
The bottom line is that walking and running were found to prevent joint damage! The only sports found to be associated with joint damage and need for surgery were contact and collision sports (such as American football and soccer), where acute traumas are frequent.
However, most studies on joint health were usually performed in older populations with osteoarthritis.
Given your young age, I am not sure that this is exactly your condition. I suggest tailoring a personalized exercise regimen to your specific condition, abilities and wishes, preferably with a physical therapist.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 9100002, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or email it to jsiegel@ jpost.com, giving your initials, age and place of residence.