Nail changes unfortunately are a common side effect of chemotherapy.

Peeling, discolouration, brittle or easily broken nails or nails that lift completely from the nail bed are not unusual. The good news is that these changes are usually temporary.

The nail consists of the nail plate, nail matrix, nail bed and nail folds – read more about the structure of the nail • here •

The nail matrix is very susceptible to damage from trauma or harmful substances such as powerful drugs like those used during chemotherapy. Damage to the nail matrix can then result in abnormal nail growth.

Typical changes are lines or grooves that run across the nail – these are called Beau’s lines, shedding of the nail (onychomadesis)  is also a common occurrence and both of these symptoms are caused by a reduction in the growth of new nail cells.

White discolouration (leukonychia) can be a result of a disruption in the amount of keratin (protein) that forms in the nail, whereas darker discolouration is often due to an increase in the amount of melanin in the nail plate.

Sometimes the nail may actually lift off the nail bed. While this, too, is not a permanent change extra care is needed as the nail plate may tear off which can be very painful. In addition as the nail bed is exposed it can be a site for bacterial and fungal spores to enter and cause an infection.

Keeping your nails short can help show less imperfections and using a nail treatment can help improve the appearance of your nails. Read more about how to keep your toenails healthy and the Dr Anders Nail Conditioning Treatment  • here •

Wearing washing up gloves can help protect against the nails from drying out and splitting or flaking and a gentle nail buffer can help keep your nails smooth.

If you have any concerns about your toenails please see a podiatrist.

For more information about feeling better during your treatment and for support groups local to you please see the Look Good Feel Better site • here •



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