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What is Chloronychia and what causes it?

Chloronychia, also known as ‘greenies’ or ‘green nail syndrome’, is a condition where green, greenish-yellow or greenish-brown spots appear on the fingernails. This is usually due to water being trapped between the natural nail and artificial nail enhancements, or when nail antiseptics are ignored during the preparation step of the sculpting services in salons.

While many nail professionals still consider the condition as a mold or onychomycosis, the infection is caused by bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This is not a fungal infection and so topical antifungals will not work. The condition releases bacterial spores which can infect nail plates with pyocyanin, causing the discolouring. The condition can be extremely dangerous when the infection goes beyond the nail plate and infects the soft tissues, especially in immunocompromised people.

Who does it affect?

Anyone, especially clients of salons where the use of antiseptics is ignored. It can occur on any part of the nail plate.

How can nail technicians help?

If the condition remains untreated, the infection can spread to surrounding soft tissue and cause severe bacterial inflammation. It can be easily treated and removed while it is within the nail plate. If the condition appears in soft tissue around the nail plate then the client should seek medical advice.

Nail technicians should remove all artificial enhancements right away and allow the discolouration to grow out. Recent research has shown that secondary infections can occur due to the exposure of proteins within the nail plate. Therefore reapplication of coatings (other than a traditional nail polish to hide the stain temporarily) should be avoided.

It has long been thought that the exposure to oxygen once the coating has been removed will kill the bacteria. Recent research has shown this to be untrue. Some infections thrive in oxygen. Another reason why coatings (other than traditional nail polish) must be avoided until the infection has grown out.

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