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Spots on my nails

January 22, 2013
by Kathleen Mears
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Last week my caregiver/driver shortened my nails and applied nail hardener. She said two fingernails on my right hand were red at the tips. That concerned me as any skin issue would. Since it is difficult for me to see my right hand, she assured me that otherwise my nails looked all right.

That evening, while I was being readied for sleep, one of the aides asked who did my nails. Then she noticed a sharp spot on my right ring fingernail. I asked her to remove it with an emery board, but she said using an emery board set her teeth on edge. I was surprised and said I would ask an aide to fix it in the morning.

The next morning my aide got a buffer block and removed the sharp spot. She was concerned that I might be diabetic, but I told her I was not. She said she thought the aides were not allowed to cut my fingernails because I use pink sweetener. I explained that I use pink sweetener because it has fewer calories than sugar.

Over the years there have been white and yellow spots on my nails. I always wondered what they were from. I do wear nail polish most of the time so I thought that might be the cause. No doctor has ever been able to explain what caused the spots on my nails. One nail technician said the spots were probably tissue damage caused by poor circulation from quadriplegia. Her explanation is the best one I have received.

Yesterday, I did some research online. On a spinal cord injury website I found nail care information for quadriplegics with white and yellow nail spots. It says a quadriplegic's nails should be cut straight across and that clipping the nail edges in too much may cause ingrown fingernails. Although that has never happened to me, my nails do curve under.

When I did regular range-of-motion exercises in the past, the curving was less pronounced. Since I turned 60, I am very careful about my nails. Clothing, towels and even sheets can tear them off. I do not use thermal blankets because the weave can easily rip off one of my fingernails. It is a precaution I am glad to take.

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Kathleen Mears

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Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...