The skin condition psoriasis, which causes red, scaly patches of skin on different areas of the body, can also be responsible for psoriatic nails. Most people with nail psoriasis also suffer from skin-related symptoms, but some experience symptoms that only affect the fingernails and toenails. Psoriatic nails are characterized by pitting, crumbling, discolorations, and thickening of the skin below the nail. Nail psoriasis is primarily a hereditary condition, and while there is no cure, at-home and medical treatments can help improve the appearance of nails and keep them healthy.
People with psoriatic nails often find their nails are more brittle and looser than normal nails. The thickening of the skin below the nail bed can cause nails to loosen, making them more susceptible to injury and infection. Nails may also crumble and form small indentations on the surface. Discoloration of psoriatic nails most commonly manifests as small patches of red or yellow coloring beneath the nail, but small white patches are common as well.
In many cases, home treatment and care is all that is necessary to keep psoriatic nails healthy and improve their appearance. Patients with psoriatic nails must care for them regularly by keeping them clean and trimmed. Excessive filing and shaping or rough scrubbing can make the problem worse because of the fragile and brittle nature of psoriatic nails. Nail psoriasis patients should wear gloves when using harsh chemicals and should be mindful to protect their nails when engaging in activities that could cause injury. The nails should also be kept as dry as possible because moisture makes them more vulnerable to loosening and breakage.
Psoriatic nails that get worse or are painful may require medical treatment. The most severe form of treatment involves complete removal of the affected nail, but this is only necessary in the most extreme cases. Fungal infections are common in patients with nail psoriasis, and oral or topical prescription anti-fungal medications usually clear the infection within a week. Other medical treatments include injected steroid medications administered under the nail and ultraviolet light therapy to help clear the symptoms.
Patients who suspect they have nail psoriasis should see a dermatologist for a diagnosis. Many other nail problems and conditions may resemble nail psoriasis, so an appropriate diagnosis is essential for proper treatment. People diagnosed with nail psoriasis should be mindful of their general health and see a doctor regularly because many people with nail psoriasis suffer from other problems, such as psoriatic arthritis, a condition that causes pain, stiffness, and deterioration of the major joints in the body.