• elderly;
  • hemiplegia;
  • nails

Background  It is well known that nails can be involved in some diseases of the central nervous system; however, no systematic study has been carried out in order to evaluate the incidence and the possible mechanisms of these nail changes in hemiplegia.

Objectives  To study the presence of nail pathology specifically associated with hemiplegia and to evaluate its incidence and its temporal relationship with the onset of the neurological deficit.

Methods  In an open study, fingernails and toenails were examined by a dermatologist; 108 were patients with hemiplegia due to a stroke, consecutively admitted to our Department of Neurology between 1995 and 1998, and 121 were normal controls.

Results  Onychodystrophy of fingernails and onychomycosis of toenails were found in both patients with hemiplegia and normal controls. However, three conditions (longitudinal reddish striation, neapolitan nails and unilateral clubbing) were only observed in some patients, always affecting fingernails of the limb affected by hemiplegia. Neapolitan nails were present in three (3%) patients with hemiplegia which had its onset 3–14 months earlier. Hemiplegia had occurred approximately 40 months earlier, on average, in six patients (6%) with longitudinal reddish striation, and 60–120 months prior to unilateral clubbing in another two patients (2%).

Conclusions  In this study we were able to assess the presence of three different fingernail conditions that were characteristically associated with hemiplegia (longitudinal reddish striation, neapolitan nails and unilateral clubbing), to evaluate their incidence and to study the delay with which these changes occur after a stroke.