Caring for your nails

What does nail psoriasis look like? Nails affected by psoriasis show changes in the shape, colour, and surface of the nail. Typically, "pitting" appears – small holes (or pits) on the nail itself and the nail (often a shade of white, yellow or brown) may start to grow away from the nailbed. There may also be buildup or blood that can appear underneath the nail. With nail psoriasis, the cause of the problem is hard to reach and therefore treat because the problems occur as the nail is forming, under the skin at the base of the nail.

Nevertheless, different medications are available to provide relief. Helpful medications that can be applied to the skin include corticosteroids (to reduce inflammation) and vitamin D3 derivatives (which regulate the production and development of skin cells). Since it can be difficult for these types of medications to penetrate through the nail, you may be recommended systemic medications, which are taken by mouth and carried through the bloodstream to the rest of the body. You may also be recommended certain systemic medications called biologics, which are injections or infusions given at intervals to target specific immune responses in the body with fewer side effects.

One easy thing you can do is to keep your nails short. This will help avoid chipping and tearing, which could lead to further damage or contribute to the Koebner phenomenon (where psoriasis plaques appear at sites of an injury). Short fingernails will also lessen the impact of any scratching you do at other psoriasis plaques on your body. And what about your toes? Trim like a pedicurist – cut your toenails straight across to lessen the chance of ingrown toenails and further discomfort.

For further information on treatment for nail psoriasis, or for resources to help manage the impact of this condition, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

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