Could nail biting be causing a fungal infection?


A client came to me requesting a full set of acrylics. I examined her hands and noticed half of the nail was missing from one finger. The remainder of the nail was raised up and looked as if it could be easily pulled off. It was jagged around the edge as if chewed, and the rest of it was soft. It looked like tinea unguium [a fungal infection of the nail complex by a dermatophyte]. Another finger had two spots of mold on it, while another finger was red and swollen around the cuticle. The client said that she wasn’t nail biter and that she always wore acrylics. I advised her to avoid artificial nails and to see a doctor. My manager told me I had to perform the service with the client promising that she would seek medical advice. I had problems placing tips on her nails with a gel adhesive. Why? The client eventually saw a doctor and was told there was no problem with her nails.


The problem that you describe certainly indicates that there was a defect of some sort with the client’s nails. You were correct in advising her against acrylics and to seek medical advice. Nails that are jagged with partial portions of the nail plate missing are highly suggestive of tinea unguium, as you suspected. In addition, if there was a finger that was red and swollen around the skin and cuticle area, these are definitely symptoms of a paronychia, which is most cases in women is caused by the yeast fungus candida.

The most likely reason you had problems applying a tip with a gel adhesive is that her nails were diseased or abnormal, which would surely result in the inability of the tip to adhere correctly to the nail. This further stresses that your assessment that it was a nail disorder was correct.-Dr. Richard Scher


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