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Causes and Treatments for Green Nail Syndrome

If your nails exhibit a deep green color, you could have green nail syndrome (GNS), also known by its medical name chloronychia. Green nails are a sign of a serious problem that you can’t eliminate with scrubbing. You will likely need medical intervention. Here are some questions and answers about GNS, its causes, treatments, and prevention to help guide you on what to do.

What Is GNS?

GNS is a condition where the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium infects and takes over the nail and nail bed. Sometimes, the infection starts small, often occurring in one part of the nail or on a single nail. Eventually, it spreads to cover the entire nail and potentially to other nails. The color is usually a solidcolor green, but it can also appear yellowish or blue-green.

Many people mistake GNS for toenail fungus, especially in mild cases where the green hasn’t fully developed. However, GNS has no fungus involvement. Fungus treatments will be ineffective with GNS. However, you can develop both conditions at the same time.

What Causes GNS?

GNS often develops when conditions allow for an overgrowth of the Pseudomonas bacteria. Most commonly, green nails develop on lifted or damaged nail beds as those often allow for bacteria and dirt to infiltrate underneath. This bacteria proliferates under high-moisture conditions with a lack of airflow.

What Are the Risk Factors for GNS?

The highest risk factors for GNS are situations where you keep the nail in moist and cramped conditions. For example, if you wear tight-fitting athletic shoes and exercise for long periods, you create a highmoisture situation with your toes that could help the bacteria grow. If you are a dishwasher or wear gloves all day, you are also at higher risk.

Some people have concerns that artificial nails and polish cause GNS, but this is not necessarily the case. However, artificial nails can contribute to an infection already in progress, especially if you have a lifted nail bed. Artificial nails add moisture and airflow problems that allow the bacteria to grow. However, if you have healthy nails, you shouldn’t have a problem with artificial nails, provided you use them the right way.

What Can the Doctor Do for GNS?

Your doctor can prescribe medications and other treatments to help rid you of your GNS. Traditional treatment includes the removal of the nail bed, or at least the lifted portions. Topical antibiotics may also help with mild cases. More severe cases may need antibiotic injections to completely cure the overgrowth of bacteria. You may need several treatments and follow-ups to ensure the bacteria is under control.

What Actions Help Prevent GNS?

Pseudomonas bacteria are common and always present around your hands and nails. If you don’t allow it to get out of control, you should avoid GNS. Be mindful of the conditions in which you place your hands and feet.

For example, make sure you air out your feet and change your socks after a long period of exercise. Try to keep your fingers dry as much as possible. Make sure you wear shoes of the correct size to keep pressure off your toenails. Monitor toe and fingernail injuries, especially if you have a raised nail bed.

Green nails are unsightly, and the bacteria will continue to grow to envelop the entire nail if left untreated. In rare cases, the bacteria may spread to other nails or even different parts of the body. Nail polish only covers up the problem and does not cure it. To rid yourself of green nails is with medical treatment. East Carolina Dermatology and Skin Surgery, PLLC can help with nail and nail bed issues. Contact our office to set up an appointment for an examination.

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