Home » Diseases and Conditions » Onycholysis


Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.

What is Onycholysis?

This is a common nail problem in which your nail separates from your nail bed, which is the part of the skin in which it lays along with covering the area of the skin. Onycholysis can also be a sign of an infection, the result of an injury to your nail, or a sign of some skin disease. It can occur in either your finger or toe nails and happens gradually. When this happens it is usually painless but as time goes on and the condition becomes worse it may become painful. It is also referred to as nail lifting. Onycholysis can happen to any age, race, or gender but there are more cases seen in females and adults.

Onycholysis Symptoms

When a person has onycholysis there can be a variety of symptoms, which vary from person to person. Some of the symptoms that might occur can include:

  • When the nail has lifted from the bed it can have a border between the white outside of the nail and the pink part of the nail that is irregular at the end.
  • A larger portion of your nail will be opaque, and the rest will be either discolored yellow to green or whitened because of the keratin that has filled the nail bed. If the discoloration is noticeable it is possible that it could be a sign of having a secondary infection.
  • Depending on what is causing your case of onycholysis your nail plat may have collected underneath the edge of your nail plat thickened skin. Your nail plate may also have indentions or a deformed shape with pits in your nail surface, a coarse thickening of your nail or the nail may be bent.

There are several conditions that have similar symptoms but when it has these two characteristics, it happens gradually and is painless, it is usually onycholysis.

Onycholysis Causes

There are many different reasons that a person may experience onycholysis. Some of the causes may be:

  • The most common cause is fungal infections whose organisms live on keratin, which is a protein that makes up your nails. This is mostly found in women who have long fingernails. The fungal infection happens because of trauma when their long fingernails hit things, such as a computer keyboard.
  • By performing tasks that involve submerging your hands repeatedly in any liquid without putting on gloves.
  • Using manicure tools to smooth your nail excessively or pushed beneath your nail to clear dirt from under the nail.
  • Too much moisture.
  • There are some medical conditions that can change the contour of the soft tissue bed beneath your nail or even the shape of the nail. When this happens your nail is not able to smoothly attach to the nail bed.
  • Having psoriasis, which is an autoimmune disease that affects your skin.
  • Sometimes after exposure to some medicines such as those from tetracycline groups, can cause your nail to react to exposure or have sensitivity to the sun causing sunburn to develop under your nails causing your nails to lift away from the nail bed.
  • Having an allergy to products that enhance your nail such as adhesives that are used to attach fake nails, nail hardeners, or apply nail tips.
  • Pregnancy
  • Using nail cosmetics.
  • Overexposure to chemicals that are used in pedicures or manicures.
  • Consistent chemical or mechanical stress to your nail.

If most or all of your nails are affected it could be a signal of more serious medical conditions such as having a hyperactive thyroid or being deficient in iron.

Onycholysis Treatment

Treating onycholysis is quite simple but it can be a slow process. Exactly which treatment will be used depends on what caused onycholysis to happen. When the nail separates from the nail bed it is permanent because there is no way that you can reconnect your toenail or fingernail back to the skin, or nail bed. You just have to wait for a new one to grow back in to take the detached nails place. Usually the detached portion of your nail is clipped off. You should continue to clip the detached part until you can see the re-growth of the new nail.

  • If the cause is from an infection you need to make sure that the infection cured and gone before your new nail can start to grow back. To cure the infection you may have to take antibiotics. Sometimes even when you have a new nail you may still see deformation or permanent marks on the new nail. For a new nail to completely re-grow and replace the detached nail can take up to six months. For toenails it will take twice as long.
  • If the cause is hyperthyroidism, treating this disease with medication will let your nails to re-grow naturally and normally.
  • For psoriasis, treatments given by mouth may help to improve the health of your nails.
  • If it is a fungal nail infection this may be able to be treated with prescription medications but this medication can have side effects ad is expensive.
  • Make sure that you are not shocking your nails by tapping the nails on the computer keys, or some hard surface, especially if you have long nails.

When you know what is causing your case of onycholysis make sure that you eliminate the cause because if you do not it will not do any good to treat them because the cause will still exist. If at all possible keep your nails as short as you can and try to clip them each week. When your nail starts to detach keep it out of the water as much as possible and when you do cleaning or have to put your hands in water wear gloves. You should also avoid using harsh chemicals. Most of the time you can treat onycholysis at home but if home treatments do not work you should see your physician for treatment.

Onycholysis Pictures

Photos, Images and Pictures of Onycholysis…

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