A common condition that affects toenails is when they start to fall off or separate from the nail bed. One of the reasons this can occur is trauma to the toe.
You might have stubbed it or suffered an injury to your toe while playing a sport or exercising.
In most cases, if the trauma is severe, the toenail can fall off or loosen quickly. However, what if your toenail starts to loosen without any obvious signs or symptoms?
An infection can cause the toenail to loosen and you might not notice any other major symptoms. If left untreated, it is not uncommon for the nail to just fall off.
You see, most people don’t give their nails much thought when they’re not experiencing any obvious discomfort or pain.
As a professional podiatrist, I would strongly advise against ignoring toenail loosening. If you notice loosening either due to trauma or without any specific or obvious reason(s), consult with a foot and ankle specialist at the earliest.
Onycholysis is a common cause of toenails falling off. In some patients, an injury can lead to onycholysis or it could come about from an allergy to a nail product (artificial nail tip or nail polish remover).
In some cases, onycholysis can develop due to nail fungus or even psoriasis. It can also be an indication of thyroid disease or even a yeast infection.
Unlike trauma to the toe, onycholysis develops over time. As a result, the signs and symptoms present gradually and often go unnoticed. Common signs include:
- Thickening of the nail or a nail discoloration.
- The area under the nail gathers debris and starts loosening.
- In most cases, the area where the nail starts to separate from the nail bed will display a white discoloration.
- If, however, the nail loosening is due to a fungal or bacterial infection, you will notice a dark brown or greenish discoloration.
The Impact of Trauma on Your Toenail
Severe trauma or injury can cause your toenail to fall off or loosen. In most cases, stubbing your toenail or dropping a heavy object on the tip of your toenail can cause trauma or injury – often leading to blood beneath the nail.
The pressure from this bleeding could lead to the toenail getting separated from the nail bed. If the injury is serious, it is not uncommon for the entire nail to fall off completely.
If you suffer severe trauma which leads to bleeding, intense pain, and inflammation, consult with a professional foot and ankle specialist – it’s crucial to rule out bone injury or fracture as soon as possible.
Your Choice of Footwear
Wrong choice of footwear is another common cause for toenails falling off. Ill-fitting or tight shoes can lead to nail trauma. You literally punish your feet when you wear ill-fitting shoes for long hours at work or when pursuing athletic activities.
When your nail suffers trauma, especially repeated trauma, it can lead to bleeding which causes a dark reddish, purplish or black discoloration. As mentioned above, the pressure from this bleeding can cause the nail to loosen.
Also, if your toenails continuously rub against hard or ill-fitting footwear, you might not experience bleeding, but over time the nail can still become loose.
Treatment for Loosened Toenails
If you notice any of the above symptoms, resulting in your nail falling off or becoming separated from the nailbed – work with a foot and ankle specialist.
You might also need to see a dermatologist or another medical professional if a health condition such as hyperthyroidism or anemia is the root cause behind your loosening nails. A detailed analysis is necessary to treat the condition.
If a fungal infection is causing your toenail to loosen, then your doctor might recommend cutting portions of the nail and the use of anti-fungal medication to treat the infection.
Bacterial infections will require a different treatment plan since the infection tends to progress much faster and can be more severe with a more complex range of symptoms.
Post treatment, your nail will grow – however, nail growth is often impacted, and you might notice the nail has a thicker or rougher texture.
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