Onychoptosis or Onycholysis Patience Required for Toenail Falling off

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bare feet coming out of bed sheets

I had my little toenail get caught on my bed sheet one night. Unfortunately, in the morning I realized it was torn off.

This can happen to anyone for different reasons usually injury, fungal infection or psoriasis. Other causes may be chemicals, certain medications and serious illness. And it may take some deep digging for patience waiting for one to grow back. It is common so don’t panic, there are things you can do.

Having a nail separate from your nail bed is referred to as onychoptosis or onycholysis.

Reasons for a Lost Toenail

Trauma or injury. Having any type of trauma (car accident) or injury to this area like stubbing the toe on furniture or having a heavy object fall on your toes can cause you to lose a toenail. It could be painful. Usually the nail will bruise because the blood collects underneath and puts pressure on it.

This is referred to as a subungual hematoma. Consult your doctor if this subungual hematoma covers more than a quarter of your toenail. If it is accompanied with feelings of throbbing or extreme pain your doctor can relieve the pressure by using a heated needle or wire to make a tiny hole in your toenail. Still it will fall off in a few weeks.

An infection. There could be a fungal infection that happens due to an overgrowth of fungi under or on the nail. Fungi love moist, warm areas which is why they are found on our toenails. An infection may look yellow with streaks on the nail or the nail may have a flaky surface and crumbling. If left untreated, the nail can separate from the nail bed entirely.

Running, sports or dancing. These activities may also cause nails to fall off. Through running lots of miles as in training, these repeated actions when your toes are hitting the front of your shoes can result with injuring the nail and causing it to fall off. This is often the case with distant runners training for marathons. Also you may be doing these activities in shoes that don’t fit properly or your toenails are too long.

When Your Toenail Falls off

If a toenail falls off and there’s bleeding first apply pressure to the area until the bleeding stops. Don’t try to tear it off the rest of the way causing more trauma. Visit your doctor immediately if your whole nail fell off or the area around the toenail won’t stop bleeding.

Clean the skin with soap and water, removing debris if any (thread from sock), a nail file can be used to smooth any rough edges. Clip any sharp or jagged edges of the remaining nail.

If you are in doubt or uncomfortable doing this, it may be better to just leave it be to fall off on its own.

Apply antibiotic ointment to prevent germs from entering. Keep an eye on it, just encase of any infection. Cover the area where the toenail fell off with a bandage.

Replace this with a fresh bandage daily for the next 7-10 days or until the skin hardens while any cuts or tears close and heal. After all the wounds heal the area can be left uncovered. Still make sure to keep it clean and dry. You don’t want the new nail to grow in with an infection.

Any redness, drainage or excess pain may be signs of an infection and should be checked out with your doctor. Over the counter medications like Advil and Motrin (ibuprofen) can be taken for pain.

Keep the Toenail Safe

Once you have dealt with the misery of having lost the toenail, hopefully you see a new one coming in around 6 weeks. It will grow at the normal nail growth rate and this usually takes about a year from cuticle to tip.

You can journal the progress. Be sure that you have identified the reason for the loss and have taken care of the issue. This could affect the new nail.

alone bed bedroom blur
bottom of soles on a bed Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

If the nail was lost due to a fungal infection, the nail growing in should be treated with an antifungal medication too. (Actually, tea tree oil an antifungal may be applied on toenail with infection).

The new nail should be kept smooth and filed to prevent it catching on socks or items and tearing again.

Feet should be kept dry, change socks often and to prevent infections avoid going barefoot in public locker rooms.

Wash your feet daily using soap and water and opt for breathable socks. If your new nail is coming in crooked or damaged visit your doctor.

For any thickening or discoloration keep the feet clean and dry and use over the counter antifungal products. If this doesn’t clear up after a couple weeks, your doctor can write a subscription for a stronger antifungal cream.

Nail Polish

In order for the nail to grow back healthy, nail polish should be avoided. This allows the new nail to breath. The nail polish would prevent all airflow to the nail and interrupt the healing process, once your nail has regrown entirely you can celebrate with a new pedicure.

If you lost your toenail because of an injury, painting the new one shouldn’t be a problem. However, due to a fungal infection, you’re likely to make the fungal infection harder to treat by painting the nail. Also, that acetone in your nail polish remover can make your nail plate weak as it’s growing in and more prone to an infection.

It’s probably alright to paint the skin of the nail plate as it won’t damage it as long as it is healthy with no open cuts, blisters or infections. I know it’s a long wait for that nail to return.

An Acrylic Nail

If an injury caused your toenail loss an acrylic nail may be a temporary fix for a special event (wedding). But this can also interfere with the regrowth and healing process. It is best to just go natural and let your body do its thing.

The same goes for these as with the nail polish if your toenail loss was because of a fungal infection, avoid. Don’t apply an acrylic toenail. It will only make the situation worse as you’re providing more moisture and warmth just inviting that fungal infection in.

You can also help your nails from the inside as well as in a healthy diet containing protein found in foods such as yogurt and eggs. Taking supplements of biotin, vitamins C and D will also help with regrowth.

The wait is really a test with patience but there are no quick fixes for the new nail to grow faster. Hang in there, you want it to grow back healthy, straight and strong and not have to face this problem again.

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Header Photo a couple pairs of feet under a bedsheet by Anna Shvets on Pexels

Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fourteen years.

Researching content:

https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/beauty-style/what-do-if-your-toenail-falling-off?     Accessed 11/18/2020

https://www.healthline.com/health/toenail-falling-off#causes    accessed 11/21/2020

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1 thought on “Onychoptosis or Onycholysis Patience Required for Toenail Falling off”

  1. The question is: onycholysis do I cover nail or let it breathe?

    The best thing is to let it breathe if possible so it can heal properly. You want to avoid putting nail polish on the nail if it is growing back. If you can find them there are breathable socks if you wear these (nylons). Try to keep it dry as much as possible and away from any other injury if this is what occurred. If you lost the nail because of a fungal infection you should take care of this first.

    Good luck and be patient ( I can relate). Thank you for visiting.


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