Just as the moon seems to change shape in the night sky, so do the half-moons of your clients’ fingernails. Like nails, the moons, or lunulae, can be affected by health, age, nutrition, changes in body chemistry and prescription medications.
“The lunula is the distal portion of the nail matrix that you can see,” explains Dr. Cathleen London of Boston University, Boston. Some people have naturally large moons, while others have small ones. Your client may have lunulae on all of her fingers or only on her thumbs. “The disappearance of the lunula is not significant, as that simply means that the surrounding skin, the paronychium, is covering it,” adds London. However, you should be concerned when your client tells you she has noticed a change in the color of her nails’ moons or when you yourself happen to spot a noticeable change during a routine appointment.
“In patients with Wilson’s disease, for instance, the area takes on a blue discoloration,” says London. “This phenomenon is called azure lunulae. Heart failure can turn lunulae red; tetracycline therapy can turn them yellow.”
Other possibilities for colorful moons include:
• Red spots: psoriasis
• Red stripes: effects of radiation or prescription drugs
• Red overall: possible problem with endocrine, neurological or gastro-intestinal systems; cancer; heart disease
• Yellow: exposure to insecticides or weed killer
• Green: trauma/bruising; infection
• Black or gray: severe trauma
• Abnormally white: HIV; liver or kidney disease; diabetes
• Blue/purple: Wilson’s disease; blood disease; prescription ?drug side effect
If you notice one of these discolorations, you should point it out to the client and suggest that she make an appointment to see her physician. Avoid applying polish or enhancements on the nails so that the doctor will be able to clearly see the condition.