Ask the Podiatrist: Will a fallen toenail grow back?

A fallen toenail is medically referred to as Onycholysis or onychoptosis. It is a separation of the nail from the nail bed (the underlying skin which keeps it in place). The toenail may first appear as a discoloration, a sign of separation from the nail bed. The nail will gradually loosen, a process that can be painful. When the toenail falls of, an individual may experience bleeding and infection.

Symptoms of Fallen Toenails

Causes of Fallen Toenails

Fallen toenails are usually caused by infection or trauma (injury). The most common cause is infection by different types of dermatophytes. These are fungi that eat the keratin found in the skin and nails. It grows in a warm and moist environment which is normally found in shoes and socks.  The infection can quickly spread to toenails, resulting in fallen toenails.

According to research, nail fungal infections affects 5% of the general population, 20% of people over 60, and 50% of individuals over 70.

Fallen toenails caused by injury are common among athletes who engage in sports such as soccer, skiing, running, etc. While it can happen as a result of striking or crushing the toes, it can also occur as a result of repeated and continuous pressure from the shoe on the nail. This causes blistering of the skin under the nail and then separation from the nail bed.

Treatment of Fallen Toenail

If a fungal infection caused this condition, the infection can be treated with laser therapy. This targets the fungus living within and under the nail without damaging healthy tissue. At Houston Foot and Ankle Care, laser treatment is the preferred method, outperforming other types of treatment.

If you have fallen toenails caused by an injury and the nail is bleeding, apply pressure to the nail for few minutes. Your Houston foot doctor will remove the blister and bandage the toe. In extreme cases, the nail may be removed to allow it to heal properly and give way for regrowth.  Anti-inflammatory medications can also help to relieve pain.

Can Fallen Nails Grow Back?

In most cases, fallen toenails do grow back after fungal infection or injuries. But, it might take a long time to do so. It takes 6 months to a year for an injured toenail to grow back after detaching.

The nail grows from the matrix which is under the nails. The matrix has growing epithelial cells that contain protein and keratin. These two substances harden to form the nail, growing out from the root and along the nail bed.

When your toenail falls off, its regrowth is determined by several factors such as your age, health, diet, season and location.  For instance, it generally takes less time for children between the ages of 10 – 14 to grow fallen toenails back, than for adults. Also, people that eat balanced diets will experience faster growth than people whose diets may not be rich in the vitamins and minerals used by the body in replenishing these cells.

You can prevent your toenails from falling by keeping your feet clean and dry as much as possible, wearing clean fresh socks daily and trimming and cleaning your toenails regularly.

If you’ve lost a nail (or several) call us at (713) 541-3199 to schedule an appointment with Houston podiatrist Gabriel Maislos, DPM, FACFAS. In addition to treating the problem, Dr. Maislos can perform matrixectomy procedures to correct deformed nail growth and issues like ingrown toenails.


Houston Foot and Ankle

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