Longitudinal erythronychia: individual or multiple linear red bands of the nail plate: a review of clinical features and associated conditions

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2011 Aug 1;12(4):217-31. doi: 10.2165/11586910-000000000-00000.


Longitudinal erythronychia is a linear red band on the nail plate that originates at the proximal nail fold, traverses the lunula, and extends to the free edge of the nail plate. Longitudinal erythronychia is classified based upon the number of nails affected and the number of red streaks present on each nail as follows: type Ia (monodactylous - single band), type Ib (monodactylous - bifid bands), type IIa (polydactylous - single band), and type IIb (polydactylous - multiple bands). Associated morphologic findings that can be present at the distal tip of the nail with longitudinal erythronychia include fragility, onycholysis, splinter hemorrhage, splitting, subungual keratosis, thinning, and V-shaped nick. Some patients with longitudinal erythronychia seek medical evaluation because of pain in the associated distal digit; however, the linear red nail plate dyschromia is often asymptomatic and the individual is concerned about the cosmetic appearance or distal nail fragility. Longitudinal erythronychia can be a clinical manifestation of an underlying local or systemic condition. Benign tumors (glomus tumor, onychopapilloma, and warty dyskeratoma), malignant neoplasms (malignant melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma), and other conditions (hemiplegia and postsurgical scar) can be associated with monodactylous longitudinal erythronychia or it may be idiopathic or the initial stage of polydactylous longitudinal erythronychia-associated systemic conditions. Polydactylous longitudinal erythronychia is most commonly reported in patients with Darier disease (keratosis follicularis); other associated conditions include acantholytic dyskeratotic epidermal nevus, acantholytic epidermolysis bullosa, acrokeratosis verruciformis of Hopf, amyloidosis, graft-versus-host disease, lichen planus, and pseudobulbar syndrome. Polydactylous longitudinal erythronychia has also been observed as an idiopathic finding. Biopsy of the nail matrix and nail bed may be necessary to establish the diagnosis of a longitudinal erythronychia-associated condition. Indeed, a biopsy should be seriously considered in patients aged more than 50 years who present with a monodactylous longitudinal red band to exclude squamous cell carcinoma. Treatment of longitudinal erythronychia depends on the etiology. For patients with longitudinal erythronychia-associated discomfort or severe nail splitting, a surgical excision may provide not only the underlying diagnosis of the nail dyschromia, but also relief of related symptoms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Biopsy
  • Humans
  • Keratosis / diagnosis
  • Keratosis / etiology
  • Keratosis / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nail Diseases / diagnosis
  • Nail Diseases / etiology
  • Nail Diseases / pathology*