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Hair, Nails and Chronic Kidney Disease

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When you look your best, you will likely feel your best. But sometimes conditions such as chronic kidney disease (CKD) can get in the way of that feeling. Changes to your body, such as hair loss or nail discoloration, may happen when you have CKD and are on dialysis.

Others can notice theses change, too, which can affect some people's self esteem when their outward appearance is affected. But there are steps people with CKD can take to help keep their hair and nails healthy.

Hair and CKD

Like a person's skin, hair can become visibly abnormal when you develop a disease. Some people experience hair breakage or find that their hair falls out, or sometimes both. For some patients, hair problems can occur before starting dialysis or after being on dialysis. In contrast, for people who don't have CKD and lose their hair, it's usually due to aging, stress or heredity.

Nails and CKD

Both fingernails and toenails can be affected by kidney disease. Nail changes patients may experience include abnormal:

  • Color
  • Shape
  • Texture
  • Thickness

Nitrogen waste products build up in people with CKD, which can lead to damaged fingernails and toenails. Show your doctor if you have any abnormal change in your nails such as:

  • Yellow or opaque coloring
  • Brittle nails
  • Pitted nails (can easily break off or fall off)
  • Linear depressions across the fingernail (called Beau's lines)
  • Ridge-shaped nails
  • Raised ridges, thin and concave shaped (called koilonychia)
  • White streaks, spots on the nails (called leukonychia)

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