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Papers of the Week

2022 Dec

Ann Med



Optimal diagnosis and management of common nail disorders.


Lee DK, Lipner SR
Ann Med. 2022 Dec; 54(1):694-712.
PMID: 35238267.


Nail conditions are not only aesthetic concerns, and nail changes may be a clue to an underlying systemic diseases or infection. Without timely treatment, nail diseases can continue to worsen and significantly impair performance of daily activities and reduce quality of life. Examination of the nails is essential at every medical visit, and may uncover important findings. Brittle nail syndrome, onychomycosis, paronychia, nail psoriasis, longitudinal melanonychia, Beau's lines, onychomadesis and retronychia are common nail disorders seen in clinical practice. These conditions stem from infectious, inflammatory, neoplastic and traumatic aetiologies. Though each nail condition presents with its own distinct characteristics, the clinical findings may overlap between different conditions, resulting in misdiagnosis and treatment delays. Patients can present with nail plate changes (e.g. hyperkeratosis, onycholysis, pitting), discolouration, pain and inflammation. The diagnostic work-up of nail disease should include a detailed history and clinical examination of all 20 nail units. Dermoscopy, diagnostic imaging and histopathologic and mycological analyses may be necessary for diagnosis. Nail findings concerning for malignancy should be promptly referred to a dermatologist for evaluation and biopsy. Nail disease management requires a targeted treatment approach. Treatments include topical and/or systemic medications, discontinuation of offending drugs or surgical intervention, depending on the condition. Patient education on proper nail care and techniques to minimize further damage to the affected nails is also important. This article serves to enhance familiarity of the most common nail disorders seen in clinical practice. It will highlight the key clinical manifestations, systematic approaches to diagnosis and treatment options for each nail condition to improve diagnosis and management of nail diseases, as well as patient outcomes.Key messagesNail disease is not only a cosmetic issue, as nail changes can indicate the presence of a serious underlying systemic disease, infection or malignancy.Nail pain and changes associated with NP are physically and emotionally distressing and may contribute to functional impairment and diminished quality of life.LM is a hallmark sign of subungual melanoma and this finding warrants further investigation to rule out malignancy.