What is the role of topical agents in the treatment of onycholysis?

Updated: Nov 20, 2020
  • Author: Melanie S Hecker, MD, MBA; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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Answer

In onycholysis, apply a topical antifungal imidazole or allylamine twice daily to avoid superinfection of the nail. An oral broad-spectrum antifungal agent (ie, fluconazole, itraconazole, terbinafine) may be used for cases with concomitant onychomycosis.

Midstrength topical corticosteroids are suitable for isolated onycholysis. High-potency topical steroids (eg, clobetasol ointment) under occlusion have been used with less than ideal results for patients with severe nail dystrophy unwilling to undergo intralesional injection of corticosteroids. Patients follow this regimen for 2 weeks and then discontinue use of topical steroids for 2 weeks to avoid the other local adverse effects of topical steroids.

Massaging 5-fluorouracil 1% solution twice a day into the proximal nail fold for 4 months has been effective for patients with nail pitting and hyperkeratosis from psoriasis. Application to the free end of the nail should be avoided, as this will cause onycholysis. Localized PUVA, oral etretinate, hydroxyurea, and isotretinoin are other agents that have had some success in treating onycholysis resulting from psoriasis.

Treatment is not without adverse effects. They may include subungual hematoma secondary to intralesional steroid injections and photo hemolysis secondary to PUVA treatment. Explain risks to patients before initiating therapy.


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