Our nails can be important indicators of our general health. Certain nail changes have been related to respiratory problems, vitamin deficiencies and heart disease. An October 2011 study in Korea has revealed another illness our nails may provide evidence of: a risk for bleeding around the optic disc in glaucoma patients.
The study examined the nails of 108 patients with glaucoma using nailfold capillaroscopy, which magnifies the nail skin fold at the base of the nail to look for abnormalities. There were 38 control patients without glaucoma also examined. The researchers noted whether patients had dilated blood vessels, loss of capillaries (avascular areas) and nail bed hemorrhages.
The results showed that that in the glaucoma patients, optic disc hemorrhages were associated with a 11-fold increase in avascular areas of the nailbed and more than a 80-fold correlation with nail bed hemorrhages.
The researchers included patients who both had glaucoma with normal pressures in their eyes, normotensive glaucoma, and those who have the more common form of glaucoma open-angle glaucoma where their intraocular pressures are increased putting pressure on optic nerve fibers. Both glaucoma groups did not differ significantly in their nail capillaroscopy findings.
In an article in Eyeworld News, Tony Realini, M.D. wrote, “Disc hemorrhages are common in eyes with glaucoma. These small, often flame-shaped lesions at or near the margin of the optic nerve are generally considered a sign of uncontrolled glaucoma.”
Glaucoma is estimated to affect 2.5 million Americans and is the second leading cause of blindness due to damage of the optic nerve from pressure inside the eye. The researchers note though that the pathogenesis of glaucoma is not entirely understood and other factors besides increased intraocular pressure may also play a role in developing complications.
Many forms of glaucoma can go undetected as they start with gradual loss of peripheral vision without eye pain. This can be dangerous, as the glaucoma may not be caught until it is too late to treat the damage that has occurred to the optic nerve.