Biting fingernails is a habit that often starts in childhood.
Studies show 60% of children and 45% of teenagers bite their nails. This manner becomes less common after age 18, but it can continue into adulthood. Many adults and children are often unaware they are biting their nails because doing so has become a habit.
Stress and boredom are the main nail-biting culprits for most people. Frustration and loneliness are additional emotional triggers that can lead to nail biting. Some research suggests genes may play a role or in some cases, it can also be a symptom of a psychological condition, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Regardless the reason, nail biting has both physical and emotional consequences.
This bad habit ended up costing one UK man his life. John Gardener, a 40-year-old amateur football referee, bit his fingernails so badly that they bled—leading to an infection that turned septic and caused a fatal heart attack.
Gardener may have become immune to the pain after years of nail-biting; his doctor says the man’s fingernails were “always in poor condition and … often bleeding,” and he’d lost nearly all feeling in them. The habit had only gotten worse in recent years, as he also suffered from anxiety and depression.
The coroner at the hearing in Bolton heard how John underwent surgery to remove the tip of his finger eight days after being admitted into hospital.
Before that, he was treated with intravenous antibiotics and was monitored by medical staff daily to see if his condition improved as he expressed that he didn’t want to lose his finger.
The inquest heard that Mr. Gardener showed signs of slow but gradual improvement and did not display any signs of high temperature or fevers.
Consultant hand and orthopaedic surgeon Mr Chye Ng said he was as shocked by his patient’s sudden death on September 22 last year as the family were.
The blood infection affected his heart, triggering a heart attack days after his 40th birthday. He died in the hospital after doctors worked for two weeks to save him.
The coroner at the inquest, Alan Walsh, said he believed Gardener “had a difficult life” after being diagnosed with diabetes as a baby and coping with twice-daily injections.
“This is a death of great sadness to everybody — his death happened so suddenly,” Walsh said.
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