Nail Matrix

Nail Matrix
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Nail Matrix Definition

It refers to the formative cellular layer that is present at the base of the nail of the toe or finger. This is the Germinal Matrix or tissue on which the nail lies. This tissue comprises of skin cells that divide quickly and are rapidly filled with keratin, a fibrous scleroprotein. The skin cells of the fingernails grow at a speed that is four times faster than that of the toenails which grow about 3 mm every month.

Nail Matrix Location

Picture of Nail Matrix

Picture 1 – Nail Matrix

It is located under the cuticle at the stem of the nail. It extends beneath the root of the nail and comprises of lymph, nerves and blood vessels.

Nail Matrix Synonyms

It is also known by various other names like:

  • Matrix unguis
  • Keratogenous membrane
  • Onychostroma

Nail Matrix Function

The nail is actually produced by the cells in the germinal matrix. It is the matrix which is actually responsible for the manufacturing of the cells that turn into the nail plate or actual body of the nail. The thickness and width of the plate are determined by the length, thickness, and size of the matrix. According to certain anatomists, the nail matrix is the only section of which rests the root of the nail.

Nail Matrix Appearance

The matrix is highly sensitive and displays many longitudinal ridges over its surface.

Nail Matrix Disorders

Conditions of the nail matrix are visible within the plate of the nail. These include disorders, such as:


These are pigmented, vertical bands that are frequently described as ‘moles’ of the nail. These typically develop in the germinal matrix and can be an indication of a malignant lesion or melanoma. Dark streaks are fairly common in individuals with dark skin and may arise normally.

Image of Nail Matrix Disorder

Picture 2 – Nail Matrix Disorder (Melanonychia)


The condition is characterized by an inward turning of the skin over the plate. It generally occurs due to damage or trauma (injury) to the matrix as a consequence of a deep cut to the nail plate or a surgical procedure. The disease leads to a loss of the plate as a result of scar tissue formation. The development of scar tissue can be prevented with the help of Cortisone. It is recommended not to make an attempt to remove Pterygium. Rather, patients with this disease should consult a doctor for proper advice and treatment.

Nevomelanocytic Nevus

The condition affects the matrix and is visible as longitudinal brown strips in the nail bed.


The condition causes swelling of the tissue surrounding the fingernail and leads to a build-up of pus between the matrix and the cuticle. The region may get red, tender and swollen. Acute Paronychia usually results from bacterial infection, especially by Staphylococcus aureus. Chronic Paronychia may be related to Psoriasis or Eczema.


The matrix remains in a healthy condition and continues to grow so long as it gets adequate nutrition. A well-nourished matrix has a healthy nail plate over it. Once new nail plate cells develop, they come out from the matrix as white and round surfaces. The new plate cells push up the older cells which look flat and translucent in appearance.


Last updated on January 30th, 2018 at 7:03 am

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