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Fingernail Abnormalities After a Systemic Illness

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Conclusion

Although Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a rare cause of onychomadesis, and the pathophysiology of this sequela is poorly understood, this case illustrates a common nail abnormality with multiple potential etiologies that are discerned by an accurate history and thorough exam. In the absence of decorative nail polish, nails can be easily examined to provide helpful clues for past injuries or underlying diseases. An understanding of nail growth mechanics and associated terminology reveals the diagnostic and therapeutic implications of proximal vs distal nail detachment, the hue of nail discoloration, as well as single vs multiple affected nails.

Onychomadesis in single nails should prompt questions about nail trauma or risk factors for fungal infections. Depending on the etiology, manual activities need to be adjusted, or antifungals need to be initiated while investigating for an immunocompromised state. Onychomadesis in multiple nails in children should raise suspicion for HFMD or even birth trauma and congenital disorders. Multiple affected nails in adults should prompt guided questions for autoimmune diseases and inciting medications. For onycholysis, trauma, psoriasis, or certain infections should be the target. Green nails are easily recognized and treated with a defined regiment, whereas dark nails should be examined closely to differentiate Candida onychia from melanonychia. Whether from a rare cause in an adult to a common illness in a child, primary care providers have sufficient expertise to diagnose and treat various nail disorders and reassure worried patients and parents with an understanding of nail regrowth.

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