Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
Caring for your toenails and fingernails is very important and should be a part of your beauty or bathing routine but no matter what toenail problems do appear. One problem that many people do not think about is toenail falling off, which they can do for no apparent reason or a specific cause.
Symptoms of Toenail Falling Off
Each cause of toenail falling off has their own general symptoms in addition to the toenail falling off.
- Trauma and injury — this is a very painful condition can cause bleeding and bruising
- Onychomadesis — the common symptom of this medical disorder is the gradual shedding of your toenail that starts from the proximal end, or the end of your toenail at the base and progresses toward the free end. It results in the separation of your nail plate.
- Onychia — in addition to inflammation of the tissues of the toenail bed it will also affect the adjacent toenail plate. There will be pus around your nail plate and at times it could also form under the nail plate and will result in the toenail shredding and being separated from the nail bed.
- Fungal infection — when your toes are attacked by the fungus called dermatophytes it can cause an infection that starts with yellowish or whitish coloration of the nail that is affected. Overtime it will start to thicken with unwanted debris accumulating underneath and on the sides of your toenail plate, eventually causing your toenail falling off. If you do not treat this fungal infection the edges of your toenail will start to crumble and very often the skin that surrounds the infected nail will become inflamed.
What Causes Your Toenails to Fall off?
Two of the more common reasons for toenail falling off are trauma or injury to the toe but there are other reasons. With injury or trauma it can cause your toenail to fall from the nail bed. The ones most susceptible to having trauma or injury to their toes are ones who wear tight shoes and people who engage in running most of the time or play sports like soccer, skiing, or skating.
Other reasons for toenail falling off include:
- Onychomadesis — the exact cause of this medical disorder is not defined it is considered to be a referred sign or symptom of a systemic illness. It could be an adverse reaction to some medications. The site of the toe that is actually affected is the nail matrix, which is the nail-forming tissue. When it affects the nail matrix it will no longer function normally.
- Onychia — this medical disorder is caused by pathogenic microbes, such as fungi, bacteria, or virus, making their way into the tissues of the nail bed and the tissues that are adjacent to your toenail plate. These pathogenic microbes can enter these tissues through minor injuries and cuts.
- Fungal infections — the group of fungus that can cause your toenail falling off is called dermatophytes. It is also known by its medical name onychomycosis. This nail disorder is one of the most frequently occurring ones
Nothing can be more embarrassing than to have a toenail falling off, especially in the summer time when you are wearing sandals. It can be a very disheartening sight. If you have injured your toe, make sure that you stop the bleeding and then cut away the affected part of the toenail. If the whole nail plate has been affected your physician may advise that you have complete removal of the entire toenail. You should always keep the injured site clean whether you have a toenail or not. By doing this it will help minimize getting an infection and will help to promote quicker healing. If you have severely injured your toenail your physician can drill a small hole through the nail so the blood that has accumulated under the nail drains off. By doing this you can help to prevent toenail falling off.
When you have a fungal infection you want to treat it so the fungus does not spread to your other nails. You can apply over-the-counter antifungal ointment or cream to the affected toe. You can also rub undiluted tea tree oil on the affected nail and surrounding area two times a day for at least fourteen days. Soaking your feet in apple cider vinegar each day for fifteen minutes will see the fungal infection going away in a few days. If it does appear to be going away or you notice it spreading you should see your physician for a stronger form of treatment such as a prescription for antifungal cream or ointment.
You should also avoid going barefoot in public places like locker rooms, gyms, swimming pools, and public bathrooms. Fungal infections are contagious so if you touch the area where the fungal infection is make sure that you wash your hands before touching any other part of your body so it does not spread. Even if your toenail falls off you still want to treat the infection so there is no re-growth of the infection after the nail grows back. There are also antifungal nail paints that you can buy to paint your nails and help keep them from becoming infected.
To help reduce the pressure on your toes wear footwear that fit well and is comfortable. Do not wear extremely high heels because there were will excess pressure on your toes from the foot being pushed down into the toe of the shoe. If you wear shoes that do not fit well or are too tight it can create a favorable environment for developing a fungal infection and can put pressure on your toenails.
If you have a toenail falling off make sure that you do not pull it off as this could cause an infection. Let it fall off naturally. You can gently clip the part that has already separated from the toe but be careful you do not accidentally put it off. You should also keep a bandage on it to help prevent it from becoming snagged on your hosiery, socks, or shoe. The toenail falling off will grow back within weeks, or it may take months. At all times make sure that you are protecting the toe so you do not get any type of infection. If this happens see your physician because you may need to be put on antibiotics to clear up the infection. Make sure that you keep your toenails clean and cut them regularly. You should always wear socks when you wear your tennis or work shoes as they will soak up all the sweat to help keep your toes from developing a fungal infection.