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What Is Onychogryphosis?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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Onychogryphosis is a disease of the nails on the fingers or toes that results in thickening of one or more nails to the point where it takes on a curved, hornlike appearance and is yellow to brown in color. Some causes of this disorder are repeated damage to a nail or insufficient blood supply to the hand or foot. As the nails grow, they get very hard to trim because they are so thick, and they often develop fungal infections. The diagnosis of this condition evaluates the patient to determine the cause. Meanwhile, treatment could involve the use of custom shoes or removing nails that are severely affected, in addition to addressing fungal infections.

This disorder often affects the feet and is caused by wearing shoes that damage one or more nails. Repeated injury makes nails thicken in response, and they may curve up or downward as they grow. Another cause is poor blood supply to the hands or feet, which may occur in conditions like diabetes, abnormal arrangement of the veins, or congestive heart failure. In these cases, every nail on the poorly supplied hand or foot is likely to be affected. It’s also possible for all nails to be damaged repeatedly from footware or things like rough work with the hands.

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Extremely thick or curved nails are difficult to trim, making onychogryphosis challenging. It’s not advised that people see a manicurist or pedicurist to treat their nails because they may also be harboring fungal infections. Also, the condition, especially on the hands, raises questions regarding how sanitary the hands may be, even with regular washing, because material tends to build up under the nails and is difficult to remove.

Given these difficulties, people with onychogryphosis are advised to see a physician or a podiatrist. Tests for the disorder could include swabs for fungus, complete blood counts, and measurements of the nail’s continued ability to recover from damage. Doctors are also likely to ask about footware and daily activities that might be causing the problem, and they may examine patients for evidence of regular blood supply to the extremities.

In addition to treating any fungal infections, medical experts will give advice on how to address onychogryphosis. If the condition is presently minor and the hands or feet are not experiencing continued damage that would exacerbate the problem, the nail might be trimmed and another appointment established for continued observation. Sometimes this disorder does resolve without treatment. Alternately, some people do benefit from custom shoes that don’t put any pressure on the nail or nails.

Occasionally, the damage to the nail with onychogryphosis is permanent, and this means curving growth will keep occurring. An option at this point is to remove the nail, permanently or, alternately, to simply live with the issue by trimming affected nails regularly. Nail removal is an aggressive treatment choice, but some people may prefer it to regularly dealing with yellowed, thick, and curving nails.

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