Photo-onycholisis, or just another way to say doxy sucks

All 3 are mildly affected, with the ring finger being worst (typical, apparently)
All 3 are affected, the ring finger the worst (typical, I read)

In the last week, I started noticing the nails on my right hand were slowly but progressively unsticking from the nail bed. Nothing dramatic was happening, and my nails didn’t feel soft or brittle, but this was getting painful and made me wonder if I should brace myself for my nails falling off. After everything I have been through over the years, this did not seem over the top or paranoid, but I was obviously coming at it from a firm place of “oh heeeeeell no” and hoping it wouldn’t be something I’d have to deal with. Given the fact that I am on many antibiotics, I am also always on the look out for potential issues brought on by that, notwithstanding giving my body all the support that I can (daily varied probiotics and probiotic foods, real food diet, supplements, rest and relaxation, etc.).

Jan and I started devising theories to make sense of it, knowing that nails are dead and can be a way for the body to rid itself of impurities, so we hypothesized that this was just part of the shedding of all the byproducts of pathogens and/or toxicity in my body. This is probably not entirely false, probably not entirely true, but I don’t think it was such a bad hypothesis at all (albeit extremely reductive).

Back in 2009, when we lived in Cochabamba, Bolivia, I was getting repeated treatment for the typhoid fever bacterium Salmonella Typhi as well as the parasite Giardia Lamblia. Sometimes bi-weekly visits to the clinic, testing lab and pharmacy were putting my body through hell, and yet I could never quite recover and kept feeling sick, weak and totally depleted (now of course I know that Lyme was already doing the crime).

I recall that at this time, my nails were very weak, soft and brittle, and my hair was falling out at an alarming rate. This was very scary, and I did not know if it was due to the medication or the infections themselves. Or if it was simply the fact that my body at that point was in such poor shape that it could no longer upkeep basic functions. That sure is how it felt at the time; it was a very difficult period.

Although I haven’t researched the topic of hair and nail health much, I do know that their state and appearance can tell you about the internal state of your body. And I am ecstatic that my hair as well as my nails are stronger, smoother and look better than they have in many years, I’d even go as far as saying in the last decade. Giggity.

But back to my nail bed problem… last night I researched Lyme disease and onycholysis (the technical term for nail separating from nail bed) and fell upon this interesting study in The BMJ Photo-onycholysis associated with the use of doxycycline, dating back to 2004.

Five patients getting treated for Lyme disease using doxycycline (at half the dose I am taking) developed the same issue and this was their hypothetic conclusion: “The mechanism of this phototoxic reaction is not fully understood. The nail bed is relatively unprotected from sunlight and contains less melanin (implicating less ultraviolet protection) than other skin sites. Onycholysis may, therefore, be the sole expression of a photosensitivity reaction.”

I’ve read a few other piece about the doxycycline, phototoxicity and onycholysis link, and it makes perfect sense to me. Especially since it started on the same day where I drove Jan to work last week, at which point I’d also somehow managed to get rays on my nose which got worse (urgh). If my nose managed to get exposed, the tips of my fingers sure did too. And it kind of hurts/burns in a similar fashion, too.

So now I know. Next up on the list of Lyme disease treatment related purchases: victorian gloves.


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