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Need a Manicure? How Crohn's Disease Affects Your Nails

I've always had long, strong, and healthy nails but only recently have I noticed they've changed. Part of this has been from low ferritin since having my son but my usual googling sessions (hello, health anxiety my old friend!) actually made me discover some pretty interesting things about our nails, and how they act as a window to our health. Did you know that Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are linked to quite a few nail changes? I thought I'd share some of the most common.

Dents or ridges across the nail

First up is beau's lines which is one of the nail changes I noticed myself. Beau's lines are dents or ridges that go horizontally across your nail and usually occur when your nails stop growing for a certain period of time. I noticed a beau's line on one of my thumbnails after first giving birth and have spotted these faint lines on other nails too. Google tells me that this is something lots of people with Crohn's have (and we can't argue with google!).

Beau's lines are thought to occur a few months after a period of illness (the ridges only show when the nail starts growing again) so although lots of things can cause them, it might be that when we're flaring, our bodies are spending all their energy fighting the flare that our nails stop growing. I've heard chemotherapy patients also have these so wonder if biologics might cause them to a lesser extent? My GP said it can also be linked to my iron levels too and I've read zinc deficiency can also cause these; which are all common issues for those of us with Crohn's disease.

Clubbed or curved nails

I'm grateful finger clubbing hasn't happened to me yet but clubbed nails happen when the nails curve downwards and the end of fingers become enlarged. Googling this can prove alarming as it's sometimes linked to lung problems but actually a study showed that 38% of people with Crohn's disease were found to have this (Compared to only 15% of this with UC) so be rest assured it's more common than you'd think!1

Spoon shaped or concaved nails

Spoon nails do what they say on the tin. They cause your nails to be spoon-shaped or concave in the middle (it's best to google and you'll see what I mean). Spoon nails are a classic sign of iron deficiency anemia, so another common one for us Crohn's folk!

Vertical ridges

Vertical ridges are lines that go along your nail from top to bottom and I have lots of these! These are caused by aging or also things like malnutrition but are generally really common so not just an IBD thing thankfully!

Nail fungal infection and Crohn's

A study showed that onychomycosis is the most common nail issue for those of us with Crohn's disease.2 This is a fungal infection where the nail becomes discolored, thickens or separates from the nailbed. It may be that we're prone to infections being on immunosuppressants which makes us more likely to get this lovely sounding condition!

White spots on the nails

Leukonychia is a fairly scary-sounding word actually just means getting white spots on your nails and it's common with IBD but also common in general. It used to be thought to be due to a lack of calcium but sometimes it's just due to knocking your nails.

Anyone else checking their nails just that little bit more closely after reading this? I'm so curious to know what changes you've noticed or if it's just me?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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