Why does chemotherapy affect the nails?
Cancer is uncontrolled growth of cells, and chemotherapy targets all the fast growing cells in the body. Hence natural fast growing cells in the body such as hair follicles, nails get affected during this process.
Fingernails and toenails changes are common among cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
What problems do patients face?
Nails tend to become brittle and might change color. The growth of nails would be reduced and should be treated with care to avoid breaking.
Sometimes the nail could partially lift off the nail bed, this is referred to as Onycholysis. This can cause discomfort during daily activities and more importantly a source of infection for patients who are already to be immuno-suppressed. Hence, it is crucial to maintain utmost hygiene to avoid infection.
There are many ways that help patients manage their nails better during chemotherapy. Given below are a few easy to implement solutions
- Keep your nails short, the chances of breakage and lifting off the nail beds could reduce.
- Hydrating Nail Solution: A study conducted on a group of women undergoing treatment for breast cancer with Docetaxel showed that the incidences & severity of Onycholysis (separation of nail from the nail bed) reduced for patients using the Hydrating Nail Solution.
- Nail polish makes the nails dry and it is recommended to remove the polish using a remover that does not contain harsh ingredients such as acetone or ethylacetate. Use removers that are gentle on the nails.
- Another study was conducted on patients undergoing treatment with docetaxel. In this study they used frozen gloves that have gel based technology to keep the hands cool for a prolonged time during chemotherapy infusion. They put this glove only on one hand to observe the impact and found that the hand wearing the glove had far less cases of Oncholysis & skin related problems.
- Do not bite nails, it could increase the chances of bacterial infection. Also, prefer using gloves while performing daily chores such as washing dishes or cleaning etc.