Having your toenail fall off is scary, hearing your doctor refer to your condition as onychoptosis or onycholysis may cause you to believe the situation is quite dire. The fact is, losing a toenail can be an inconvenience or a life-threatening injury. The outcome is greatly dependent upon the care you take.
In this article, we will discuss the reasons for losing toenails. We will also share some sound advice on proper response to this phenomenon. Read on to learn more.
Why do toenails fall off?
If you injure your toenail by dropping something heavy on your foot or cutting through the nail, it is very likely to become bruised and discolored. The nail bed may become separated from the nail, and the nail will fall off.
This is a painful condition that should be seen by a doctor. Even a simple injury can become life-threatening if infection sets in.
In the best case scenario, your doctor would disinfect the area, remove the nail and give you a course of antibiotics to prevent infection. In the worst case scenario, without treatment serious infection could develop and you could lose your toe or worse!
Serious fungal infection can also cause your nail to separate from the nail bed. This is also a serious matter that just underscores the importance of seeing your doctor right away if you develop problems with your toenails.
Losing a toenail is painful in any event. It is a potentially serious situation that needs professional care.
How can you tell if you are in danger of losing your nail?
In the case of injury, you may experience a single, traumatic event that lets you know (in no uncertain terms) that you are going to lose your nail; however, sometimes injury happens gradually due to poorly fitted shoes or repetitive use and stress. If you injure your toenail, you will naturally experience quite a bit of pain.
Blood may begin to collect beneath the damaged nail causing pressure and discoloration. The pressure and the damage to the nail bed may cause the nail to become loose.
If your nail is threatened by a fungal or bacterial infection you may notice the nail becoming thicker. It may gradually become yellow, brown or even greenish. Swelling and inflammation may develop, and you may begin to experience gradually increasing pain. A discharge my emit from under the nail along with a very bad smell. If left untreated, the nail will fall off.
Both bacteria & fungus can cause nail loss
Sudden, traumatic injury can cause nail loss; however, more often it is infection subsequent to the injury that causes the loss of the nail. Injury is not the most common cause of nail loss, though. Gradually developing fungal infection is far more common.
Dermatophytes (fungi) that thrive in warm, damp environments (e.g. closed shoes) can cause athlete’s foot, toenail fungus and loss of toenails.
While many people think that athlete’s foot and toenail infection “runs in families” this is not technically true. Fungus is present almost everywhere, and the only way to prevent it taking hold is the practice of diligent cleaning and personal care routines.
It is very important to keep your environment clean and well-aired. Avoid sharing towels, bedding and clothing with others to avoid passing fungus amongst household members.
What to do?
Losing your nail may cause you to feel a sense of panic, but take heart. Your nail will probably grow back within six months’ time.
The most important thing is to see your doctor and follow his or her instructions carefully. If your toenail loss is caused by a fungal infection, you may need to use topical treatments and/or take oral medications. Laser treatment may also be required, and this can be quite successful.
The sooner you get a proper diagnosis, the better your chances of full recovery. If you delay, you will simply experience more pain. You may also end up with a malformed toenail or a more serious complication. If your toenail does grow back misshapen, you may need to have it permanently removed to prevent ongoing pain and problems. This can be painful and costly in itself, so clearly it’s best to get treatment as soon as possible to avoid a long, drawn-out ordeal.
If you injure your toenail badly, apply the principles of rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) immediately to reduce swelling and inflammation. See your doctor or podiatrist as soon as possible for professional care to prevent infection and complications.
You may wish to take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain while you are waiting for your doctor’s appointment.
Is it really necessary to see the doctor?
While a toenail injury may seem like a small matter, the fact is it can quickly develop serious complications. It is much easier to properly treat toenail injuries and fungal infection early on. There is no value in waiting. See your doctor right away for proper diagnosis and treatment.
How to avoid toenail loss
Proper foot care, good foot wear and careful lifestyle habits will go far to help you protect your feet and avoid problems. Follow these tips to prevent toenail loss:
- Select your shoes wisely and care for them correctly. They should be properly fitted and made of a material that allows for good air circulation.
- Be careful! If you work in a dangerous environment, wear shoes or boots with steel toes. If you play a sport, buy the correct footwear to protect your feet.
- Wear absorbent socks that wick the moisture away from your feet and provide protective cushioning. Change them every day or more often if needed.
- Wash and dry your feet every day and apply a good, moisturising, anti-fungal foot lotion or cream.
- Dry your feet completely after swimming, walking in the rain or otherwise getting wet.
- Always use proper nail care equipment to trim your toenails, and keep your nails properly trimmed to avoid snagging, tearing or breaking them.
- If your nail does become injured or loose, bandage it and see your doctor right away.
- Choose your shoes for comfort over fashion. You should always have half an inch of wiggle-room in the toe-box.
Disclaimer: Pedi Reviews does not provide medical advice, treatment or diagnosis.