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Fingernail Abnormalities After a Systemic Illness

Examining a patient’s nails and understanding nail growth mechanics can provide helpful clues to help treat past injuries or underlying diseases.

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A 45-year-old African American woman presented with painless fingernail detachment and cracks on her fingernails that had developed over the previous month. Her medical history was notable for an episode of Stevens-Johnson syndrome 2 months prior that required treatment with prednisone, IV immunoglobulin, etanercept, acetaminophen, and diphenhydramine.

A physical examination revealed multiple fingernails on both hands that exhibited 4 mm of proximal painless nail detachment with cream-colored discoloration, friability, and horizontal splitting (Figure). New, healthy nail was visible beneath the affected areas. Toenails were not affected.

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