Original Research

Nail Irregularities Associated With Sézary Syndrome

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Patient 2
An 84-year-old white man with B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia also was diagnosed with SS at an outside institution. One year later, he presented to our institution with mild pruritus and swelling of the lower left leg, which was diagnosed as deep vein thrombosis. There was bilateral scaling of the palms, with fissures present on the left palm. The fingernails showed dystrophy with Beau lines, and the toenails were dystrophic with onycholysis on the bilateral great toes (Figure 2). Patches were noted on most of the body, including the feet, with plaques limited to the hands; the total BSA affected was 80%. Flow cytometry showed an elevated Sézary cell count (CD4+CD26) of 4700 cells/µL. Complete blood cell count with differential included a hemoglobin level of 11.4 g/dL, hematocrit level of 35.3% (reference range, 37%–47%), a platelet count of 217,000/µL, and a WBC count of 17,700/µL, of which 29% were neutrophils, 63% were lymphocytes, 6% were monocytes, and 2% were eosinophils. The lactate dehydrogenase level was elevated at 829 U/L. The patient had not been treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia in the last 11 months due to adverse reactions to rituximab after 2 cycles of fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab chemotherapy. First-line therapy for the patient was photopheresis for SS.

Figure 2. Sézary syndrome. Dystrophic toenails with onycholysis on
the bilateral great toes.


Nail changes are found in many cases of advanced-stage SS but rarely have been reported in the literature. A literature review of PubMed articles indexed for MEDLINE was conducted using the search terms Sézary, nail, onychodystrophy, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, and CTCL. All results were reviewed for original reported cases of SS with at least 1 reported nail finding. A total of 7 reports2-8 met these requirements with a total of 43 SS patients with reported nail findings, which are summarized in Tables 2 and 3.

Our findings are generally consistent with those previously described in the literature. Nail thickening, yellowing, subungual hyperkeratosis, dystrophy, and onycholysis are consistently some of the most common nail findings in patients with SS. In 2012, Martin and Duvic9 found that 52.9% (45/85) of SS patients with keratoderma on physical examination were positive for dermatophyte hyphae when skin scrapings were done under potassium hydroxide examination, a considerably greater incidence than in the general population (10%–20%). The nail changes seen in our SS patients were identical to those found in dermatophyte infections, including discoloration, subungual debris, nail thickening, onycholysis, and dystrophy.10 In patient 1, nail clippings were positive for onychomycosis, a common nail condition that is especially prevalent in older or immunocompromised patients.9,10

Interestingly, findings not observed in the literature included salmon patches and Beau lines. Beau lines are horizontal depressions in the nail plate and often are indicative of temporary interruption of nail growth, such as due to an underlying disease process, severe illness, and/or chemotherapy.11,12 In our review, patient 2 had clinical findings of Beau lines. Because the average time for fingernail regrowth is 3 to 6 months,13 it is reasonable to assume that physical findings associated with fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab chemotherapy treatment would no longer be demonstrated 11 months after completion of therapy. On the other hand, paronychia was frequently observed by Damasco et al8 (63.2% [12/19] of their cases), yet it was not found in our database or the other literature reports we reviewed. Perhaps these differences are due to differences in patient populations and/or available therapies, lack of documentation, or small sample size and limited reports in the literature.

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