Whether it is caused by a fungal toenail infection or a traumatic injury to the toe, it is common for a toenail to detach and fall off. This condition can be painful and cause an unsightly appearance to your toe. While there is not a treatment that can attach the toenail back onto the nail bed, there are things you can do to make the process of growing out a new nail painless and infection-free.
Common Reasons for Losing a Toenail
There are many reasons to lose a toenail. Some common reasons are:
- Fungal toenail infection
- Acetone nail polish remover
- Skin conditions such as psoriasis
- Trauma or injury to the toe such as stubbing the toe or dropping something heavy directly on the toenail
Treatment Options for a Detached Toenail
One of the first signs that you may lose your toenail is the darkening of the toenail due to blood collecting underneath. Eventually, the toenail may separate from the nail bed and become uncomfortable before it finally falls off.
Do not rip off the toenail or tear off the piece that is detaching. You can trim the nail straight across and leave the section that is falling off still on the toe until it falls off naturally.
Once the nail falls off, you will need to protect the nail bed from infection. Toenails can take several months to a year to regrow.
Some treatment and prevention tips for toenails that have fallen off or are in the process of falling off include:
- Use pain medication as needed. After cleaning your toe, an antibiotic ointment or cream can be applied to help prevent infection. To help with pain, you can take an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen.
- Bandage the toe. If the toenail has not completely fallen off, you can bandage the nail to your toe until it falls off. You can also apply a bandage over the nail bed after the nail has detached from the nail bed. Keep the bandage on for 7 to 10 days until the skin of the nail bed hardens.
- Trim the existing nail. Trim off any sharp edges of the toenail to prevent catching or tearing on socks or other items.
- Soak your feet in cold water. You can soak your toe daily in cold water for 20 minutes.
- Elevate your foot as much as possible. To reduce swelling in your toe, elevate your foot.
How to Prevent Losing a Toenail
There are some preventive measures to consider when doing activities that can help decrease your risk of losing a toenail such as:
- Do not wear shoes that are tight in the toes or put pressure on the toes.
- Keep your toenails trimmed short.
- Always wear socks that are cushioned in your shoes.
When to See a Podiatrist
You can often treat a fallen-off toenail at home. On occasion, a detached toenail can become infected. If you experience any of the following signs of an infection, it is time to consult with a podiatrist:
- Increased pain
You will also want to see a podiatrist if the toenail has detached and will not stop bleeding or if you feel throbbing in the toe where the nail has fallen off.
If your toenail has fallen off or you have questions about your feet or toes, Greater Washington Advanced Podiatry can help. We offer a free initial consultation and can create a customized plan to address your concerns. To set up an appointment, fill out our contact form or call us at (301) 515-FEET.